The Tim Hortons Brier champion of the past two years just keeps on winning. And winning.
Kevin Martin’s powerhouse Edmonton juggernaut, riding a 26-game winning streak in Brier play, pulled off a pair of Houdini jobs at the $75,000 Canada Cup men’s curling championship on Wednesday at the Gallagher Centre.
Martin, with John Morris, Marc Kennedy and Ben Hebert in support, trailed veteran Russ Howard 6-3 after seven ends in their opening match, then scored 2-2-1 over the last three frames for an 8-6 verdict.
Then, on the late shift, Martin overhauled a three-point deficit at the half, eventually wired Brad Gushue of St. John’s in a deadlocked 10th end and stole two for a 9-7 decision.
“Smoke and mirrors, those two wins today,” said Martin. “We hung in there and kept it close. In the last end, Benny made a perfect come-around to the button, dead buried and behind theirs in the top 12. That won us the game.”
When was the last time he was down 5-to-2 in any game?
“Hmmm. Before Christmas?” mused Martin. “Brad had us on the run. That wasn’t our fault. They made every shot.”
The champ also heisted a last-end victory from Gushue during last week’s Calgary Brier.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” said the 28-year-old Newfoundland skip. “But we have to be better in the 10th end. We’re not executing properly and they executed very, very well. They made every shot absolutely perfect but we did not execute. We basically threw a second guard for them on our first rock and gave Ben a chance to put one on the button, double guarded.
“You have to put rocks in good positions in the last end against these guys. I hate to be harping on it but we have to keep positive. These 10th-end collapses are unacceptable. It all comes down to rock positioning. You give these guys an opportunity and they’re going to take it every time.”
Joining Martin in the undefeated ranks heading into today’s action is Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton, who appears to be angling for a return engagement following his defeat in the Brier final.
Stoughton dumped Edmonton’s Kevin Koe 7-5 and Toronto’s Wayne Middaugh 5-2 in a pair of relatively conservative tilts.
“So far, so good, but we’re not playing very good,” said Stoughton later. “This ice isn’t as nice as last week’s at the Brier. It doesn’t curl as much. That’s why the scores are pretty low. It’s tough to get rocks in great spots and that makes it a pretty simple game.”
Winnipeg’s Kerry Burtnyk and Mike McEwen pulled even with 1-1 records on the day while Gushue, Middaugh, Koe and Edmonton’s Randy Ferbey, the six-time Brier champ, fell to the same record.
Burtnyk, bombed 9-3 by Gushue in the morning, bounced back to throttle Ferbey 7-4 on the night shift. McEwen, a 10-5 opening round loser to Middaugh, then clubbed veteran Russ Howard of Oromocto, N.B. 7-2.
Koe sawed off on the day with a 7-2 win over Ted Appelman of Edmonton. Ferbey opened with a 6-2 victory over Appelman.
Howard, whose opening loss to Martin was a mental killer, admitted, “I think we’re tired. We played well early, and then the ice got a lot straighter and a lot faster, which is unusual. We just started missing draws the wrong way.
“I had a draw to go four up and I thought I threw it good and it just kept sliding and I was about a foot heavy. That put us three up.
“They got a nice deuce in the eighth. We sort of protected, we could have gambled a bit but we tried to protect so now we’re one up with playing the ninth. We still had them.
“Then in the ninth I had a come-around tapback which is my forte. And I don’t know what happened to it. I tried to throw board and I thought I threw at least board and I tried to soften my release and I did and it just took off.
“The worst part is if I hog it we’re tied up coming home with the hammer. But we swept it all the way down, I ticked the guard, rolled over and raised him in for two.
“Now we’re one down, they played a pretty good 10th, we couldn’t get the deuce. We couldn’t even get one!”
Howard shook his head hopelessly. “So you think you have Kevin Martin beat, we outcurl him and then we have 19 minutes to get back out on the ice again,” he said of his six-end loss to McEwen.
“We have no excuses, we’re supposed to be sharp but we weren’t and we paid. The way we lost was the worst part. If Martin had beaten us in five ends, we would have had lunch and gone back out there. But it was like we were all over him and I couldn’t believe I raised him in. I couldn’t make that shot if I threw 1,000 rocks. I get it by the guard we’re three-up. So it’s a game of inches, right?”