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Three remain in Canada Cup men’s race

It’s just one more step on the trail of another Olympic gold medal.

The Ol' Bear Kevin Martin is in Sunday's final

Kevin Martin of Edmonton maintained his quest to repeat that massive global honour on Friday at the Cranbrook RecPlex, completed a six-game sweep at the Capital One Canada Cup of Curling.

Martin clinched a berth in the men’s final on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. MT by stealing a 7-6 winner with a precise last rock against Canadian champion Jeff Stoughton of Winnipeg.

In a late-finisher, Martin and his team of John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert capped the unbeaten string with a

7-5 conquest of Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen (2-4).

Stoughton (Jon Mead, Reid Carruthers, Steve Gould) missed another difficult last rock in his evening closer against Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., whose 5-3 win earned him second place and dropped Stoughton to third.

The same two teams will collided in Saturday’s semi-final at 6 p.m. MT.

Stoughton, who won his first four games, and Howard logged identical 4-2 records. The Howard win averted a possible tiebreaker against Calgary’s Kevin Koe who finished 3-3 following an evening 7-4 win over Steve Laycock (1-5) of Saskatoon.

Howard more or less maintained control against Stoughton and stole an insurance point when Stoughton’s last-rock runback failed to come off.

“Those two games today were just so nerve-racking and huge,” said Howard, “and that last one saved us an extra game (Saturday). I think that was one of the best-played games by both teams all week.”

Howard and Co. (Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing, Craig Savill), outpointed Stoughton’s crew 90-87.

“We didn’t play a great 10th end but we got away with it,” said the 49-year-old Ontario skip. I thought Jeff had a makeable shot to win and it just overcurled on him a bit.

“This reminds me of playoffs at the Brier. You go tooth and nail with all these guys. The pressure’s high, the shotmaking’s great and it’s just fun. That’s why we love the game.

“Now we get another chance in the semi-final. After our sluggish start, I couldn’t ask for more than that.”

Stoughton’s team scored a third-end deuce for a 3-1 lead and maintained control against Martin until the Edmonton squad fashioned a tying deuce in the 10th end to force overtime. With his last rock of the 11th, Martin rubbed his shooter to the button behind two guards at the top of the rings.

“The rocks in the top 12 weren’t locked,” explained Martin afterward. “There was separation. And we rubbed in right behind them on the button.

“He (Stoughton) tried to drag the front ones with big weight and he did, but everything went out and we had a kicker that stood up.”

Most important, Martin moved to within one win of another berth in the Canadian Olympics trials. Canada Cup winners take the first berths in the event slated at Winnipeg two years from now.

“The Olympics?” Martin repeated the question. “That’s why I’m still playing. I’ve been lucky enough to be at three and loved each one. Once we didn’t get to the podium, once a devastating loss, once a win. And I loved all three of them. I just loved them. And I think I’m healthy enough and playing well enough to try to get to one more.”

Stoughton wasn’t happy with the game’s final outcome.

“We win the game we’re in the final,” he moaned. “Now they’re in the final. So, yeah, it’s a kick in the teeth. It sucks to lose to them so hopefully we’ll get another shot at them.

“We were winning most of the way and it was too bad I didn’t have a shot in the extra end to win it but he made a great shot, he feathered it straight sideways right to the button and I couldn’t get it out. It wasn’t going to go. I had to give it a shot. You never know. But it wasn’t going to stick around. He had the kicker.”

Martin criticized the move to qualify teams for the Olympic trials “in 2011 when the Olympics aren’t until 2014”.

“Sometimes it’s better to still be trying to qualifying near the end and there’s lots of pressure on you,” he said.
“This team stays pretty motivated — always. But I think it’s a bit of a blunder, qualifying somebody this soon. I think it’s something we should change in the future.”

Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie joined Laycock at the bottom of the standings with a 1-5 record but needed an 11-4 afternoon win over Laycock to gain $2,000 win money.

Jacobs lost 6-4 to McEwen in the morning while Howard posted a critical 7-5 win over Koe, whose suffered three tough-luck defeats on the week.

Each team failing to reach the playoff round won $2,000 per round-robin win.