‘Heavyweight’ battles looming

All the chatter on Tuesday night at the Tim Hortons Canadian Curling Trials centred around “the heavyweights”. Those being the so-called top-four men’s seeds, heading into their own three-round final at Rexall Place starting Wednesday afternoon. Unbeaten Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ontario is maybe one win away from assuring himself of a playoff berth and faces Edmonton’s Kevin Koe. And two Edmonton giants, Kevin Martin and Randy Ferbey, collide in a second game. All three hometown units are 3-and-1 with one game on Wednesday and two on Thursday. Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton, who suffered a horrible break in the eighth end of his nightcap Tuesday against Martin when both his stones appeared to grab debris and/or fudge, is 2-and-2 and facing the same three foes he topped at the Prince George Pre-Trials in the stretch. “You can say there are heavyweights but anybody who thinks you can prepare any different from any of these teams is stupid,” said Howard.  “Every team here should be here and every one is dangerous. Having said that, we feel we have three of the best teams on the planet left to play.” Howard defeated Pat Simmons (1-3) of Davidson, SK., 7-5 in Round Four while Martin doubled the score on Stoughton (8-4), breaking up a 4-4 tie with three on the eighth, courtesy Stoughton’s misfortune and another steal in the ninth.  Elsewhere, Koe throttled Wayne Middaugh (0-4) of Toronto 11-4 and Ferbey dumped Jason Gunnlaugson (0-4) of Beausejour, MB, 9-4. “Truth be known,” said Howard, “I’d have taken 3-and-1 at this stage if someone had asked me prior to the start of the tournament. But we’re playing really well now, the ice conditions are fantastic and 4-and-0 is a definite bonus.” Howard will close out the round robin in a much anticipated battle with Brier champion Martin on Thursday night. So, does the Ontario champ feels he’s owed one . . . or two, based on the results of two high-calibre collisions at last March’s Calgary Brier? “Those two games I still talk about,” he said. “They were two of the most enjoyable games I’ve ever played. They were so entertaining. There was great shotmaking. Each could have gone either way.” But they didn’t.  And it cost Howard at least a shot at his second Brier title as skip. “Is it our turn? I don’t know. I’d say we’re going to have to go prove that.” Stoughton felt he was in control of the eighth end in the battle with Martin even though the Edmonton skip owned the hammer. On both shots, Stoughton was attempting to bury draws. “It’s disappointing, sure, but easier to park than missing that shot (in the first round) to Howard,” said the Winnipeg skip. “Those shots tonight, I was taken right out of the equation by something I couldn’t control.  But two back-to-back? I was shocked. I just don’t know what’s going on. Halfway down it looked perfect. Two-thirds of the way down it was gone. It’s just disappointing that it came down to that. “It was a great game, Great shots made by both sides. It hurts now. Hopefully it won’t be so painful at the end of the week. It looks like we’re going to have to win the last three.”