It’s going to be same-old, same-old in the Capital One Canada Cup men’s championship final.
And Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., who executed a perfect 100 per cent effort on skip’s rocks in Saturday night’s 9-5 semi-final ousting of Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton, is hoping the same-old will extend to the finish at the Cranbrook RecPlex.
Howard, the defending champion, faces a foe so familiar it’s almost family in Edmonton’s Kevin Martin. The same two collided last year in the final at St. Albert and Howard prevailed, 10-7, in a wild fracas.
Howard was chuckling as he came off the ice Saturday.
“Who are we playing in the final?” he asked. “I think I know the guy. Battle of the baldies.”
In the Sunday 1:30 p.m. final, Martin and his team of John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert will have hammer and choice of rocks. A year ago, Howard had the first-end hammer but Martin stole a point only to give up three in the second end.
Howard and his team of Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill were close to unbeatable in this semi, opening with a crucial deuce against Canadian champion Stoughton and maintaining control until applying a crushing three-ender for a 7-3 lead in the seventh exchange.
“It was one of the best games I’ve thrown this year, no question,” Howard opined when asked to rate his performance. Fact is, he didn’t miss a shot.
“I felt really good out there, I felt confident, I thought I was seeing everything really well, I could visualize those hack-weighters, I could see shots, I was in a good place this game.”
Stoughton and his troops never really connected in this joust but the Brier winner recalled the extra-end loss to Martin on Friday — a battle of unbeaten round-robin teams — was the most disappointing for him.
“We played great against Kevin, rather mediocre against Glenn. The disappointing game was against Kevin. An extra end and you have the hammer and no shot to win, that was the disappointment.
“When you play great teams like this you have to play perfect and we had a couple of shots where we were maybe two or three feet heavy. Instead of being two or three feet in front of the teeline we were a foot behind.”
That was the situation, he suggested, in the seventh end.
“They played a great game. We were too deep on the last one. We knew he’d make it. We had to be in front of the teeline.”
Howard denied that his team was never in the glue.
“Jeff had us in trouble two or three ends that we got out of nicely,” he said. “That’s the sign of a good team, right? It wasn’t collectively our best effort but we made all the right shots. When one guy would miss the next guy would make a real good one and that’s what you have to do in this calibre of play. Jeff keeps coming back at you. Even that last shot (ninth end when Howard executed his last rock for a killing deuce), if I don’t throw a good one he steals two and we’re tied coming home.
“That’s the way it is. And the ice conditions are so good. The crew has done a fantastic job. You’re making all the great shots. That’s what it’s all about. And if you keep making great shots you have a chance to win.
“I mean, you throw hack weight to tap out rocks dead behind guards, those are phenomenal conditions. He buries in the seventh, you have to divorce yourself from that and throw the right shot with the right weight. It’s going to come in around there and make it.
“Jeff made the perfect shot where he had to in the top four-foot and we had to follow him down and tap it out. They were kind of behind the eight-ball the whole end from the moment Craig (lead Savill) played a perfect chip shot and rolled into the rings. That’s how huge leads are in this game. Kudos to him.”
Howard pooh-poohed any suggestion the granting of the first Olympic Trials berths today was too early.
“I don’t care whether we get in first or eighth but I don’t want to give up an opportunity like this,” he said. “It’s huge. We don’t plan to make any team changes so the bottom line is we want to get in as soon as we can. If we can get her done here, that’s what we want to do. It’s just one term goal out of the way. But we’ll keep playing one way or the other because we want to stay sharp.
“There’s a lot on the line. All kinds of things. Back to the Canada Cup. The Continental Cup. The Trials spot. The money. It’s not quite as big as the final to go to the Olympics (Martin beat Howard in that one at the 2009 final) but it’s up there.”
Stoughton wasn’t over-wrought with his teams performance. His team departed with $10,000.
“I thought we played great this week and had a good few games here.”
Sunday’s winner collects $26,000. The loser gets $16,000.