Howard, Koe unbeaten at men’s Trials

The mark of a curling champ often turns out to be the guy who best emulates Erich Weiss. Erich who? Well, you might know him better by his stage name — Harry Houdini. Yes, the betting is the team that wins the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials, men’s division, will be the team that negotiates more tight corners and slithers out of more seemingly impossible predicaments than the legendary magician himself. As such, Glenn Howard’s Coldwater, ON. entry best fits the bill heading into Tuesday morning’s third round at Rexall Place, although Howard shared the lead after two rounds of action with Edmonton’s unsung Kevin Koe. Both won their second straight on Monday afternoon — Howard shaded longtime Ontario opponent and former teammate Wayne Middaugh of Toronto 6-5 while Koe thumped the tournament upstart, Jason Gunnlaugson of Beausejour, MB, 7-2. While Middaugh and Gunnlaugson remained winless, everybody else in the field of eight was batting .500. “Yeah, we’ve had some good fortune,” admitted Howard on Monday after his tight-fit with Middaugh, who narrowly missed some spectacular shots that, had he made them, might have turned the game on its head. “But those were difficult shots and if he can make them, more power to him,” said Howard. “If you can put the other guy in that position often enough you’re doing something right.” In Sunday’s opener, Howard wiggled off a sharp hook when Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton gassed a last-rock draw. “We were lucky,” Howard said. “I hope that’s not the end of that. You take a W out of that and run with it. To win something like this you need the breaks and you need to be consistent.  We can play a little better. The ice isn’t yet conducive to great shots but I think it will be, I hope it will be because that will help with our confidence.” In other games, Pat Simmons of Davidson, SK., stole four points in upsetting Canadian champion Kevin Martin of Edmonton 8-5 while Stoughton rebounded to thrash six-time Brier champion Randy Ferbey of Edmonton 9-5. “I know Jason was really fired up for his first one but he wasn’t as sharp today and we got a few misses,” said Koe. Two steals gave the Edmonton-based team a 3-0 lead after five and after Gunnlaugson managed his only points in the sixth end, Koe replied with deuces on the seventh and eighth when the young Manitoba skip’s final bullet-strength kill failed to break up a cluster in the centre rings. “We played it pretty open to start with — I wasn’t sure how he wanted to play it — but he just kept hitting so we decided to junk it up a little bit. We had one so-so in, otherwise we weren’t in much trouble. A couple of times I’m not sure he needed to throw the weight he did. I know he’s a good hitter but he didn’t throw them like he normally does.” Gunnlaugson reasoned that there’ll be “positive days and negative days”.  “Even the guys who’ve been doing this for 25 years have that happening,” he said with a shrug.