Defending champion Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., got off to a winning start at the Capital One Canada Cup of Curling at the Cranbrook RecPlex, gaining control with a double-kill in the eighth end which led to a 6-3 conquest of Sault Ste. Marie’s Brad Jacobs.The match was square at three in the eighth with Jacobs counting a pair when Howard went down for his last shot, a dicey takeout.
“I had to make the double. I couldn’t nose, I couldn’t roll wide. If I gave him one to take the lead it still wasn’t great,” said Howard whose last rock rolled in to strike a second hidden counter in the four-foot and remain for a 4-3 lead.
Jacobs then watched his last rock of the ninth “hang out”, Howard stole a deuce and the jig was up.
Elsewhere, defending women’s champion Stefanie Lawton of Saskatoon yielded a steal in an extra-end 7-6 loss to Heather Nedohin of Edmonton. Kevin Koe of Calgary, the 2010 world champion, whipped World tour money leader Mike McEwen of Winnipeg 7-4 and Chelsea Carey’s youthful entry from Morden, Man., thumped Rachel Homan of Ottawa 9-3.
In 1:30 p.m. MT games today, Nedohin goes right back at it against four-time Canadian champion Jennifer Jones of Winnipeg, Carey faces two-time Canada Cup champion Shannon Kleibrink of Calgary and defending Canadian champion Amber Holland of Kronau, Sask., opens against Lawton.
In aftrernoon men’s action, Olympic gold-medallist Kevin Martin of Edmonton faces Steve Laycock of Regina and defending Canadian champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg tackles the Jacobs unit.
Seven teams are involved in men’s and women’s round-robin qualifiers leading to semi-final matches on Saturday and championship finals Sunday.
The winners become the first teams to qualify for the Tim Hortons Canadian Olympic Curling Trials at Winnipeg two years from this week.
“I feel great about this result,” said Koe. “We’ve struggled against McEwen this year. I think we’ve lost four games to him, all really close games and a couple we let slip away. This is the first we’ve beat him this year.”
McEwen arrives here with three cashspiel wins under his belt.
“Same as last year,” he said, “except last year we’d won three in a row.”
Koe admitted McEwen’s team “probably is one of the favourites, he’s been having a great year so it’s nice to get off to a good start and we played really well.”
The Calgary team, involving two players from Edmonton, scored three deuces in answer to the three singles from McEwen over the first seven ends.
The result for Nedohin turned in the 11th end when Saskatoon vice-skip Sherry Anderson narrowly missed a raise takeout in crowded rings. That allowed Nedohin to seal off the front leaving Lawton tough draws, neither of which came off.
Carey posted three multiple counts against Homan including a game-killing four-spot in the seventh end.
“It’s nice to start off with a win,” said Carey. “It’s sort of monkey-off-your-back feeling. It’s such a tough field going in you know that you could easily go 0-and-6. We’ve lost to all these teams before.”
Conversely, she’s beaten them all, too.
“We’re very familiar with each other,” she admitted. “There are no surprises here. We all play each other practically every weekend. But this is an extraordinarily tough field.”
Nedohin shrugged off her victory.
“It’s like we expected all games are going to be,” she said. “The 10th end, an extra end. It’s Day One, Game One, good outcome.
“It’s like any curling match here, it’s no longer a matter of inches, it’s a matter of millimetres. You curl across Canada against this calibre of team every second weekend and this is what you get used to.”