Howard and Koe remain undefeated at Tim Hortons Brier

Another Brier, another fast Ontario start. Playing in his fifth straight Tim Hortons Brier, Glenn Howard and his team of Richard Hart, Brent Laing and Craig Savill of Coldwater stretched their record to 3-and-0 on Sunday at the Metro Centre. Howard has a habit of getting off to fast starts at Briers. A year ago he was 8-and-0 before losing in the preliminary round robin. In 2008 he was 6-and-0. Ironically, the year he won it all (2007), Howard was beaten after piling up four straight wins.  In 2006, he won six before losing. “It’s where we want to be, obviously,” Howard was saying Sunday. “But we’re still not quite comfortable with the conditions, we still have some work to do.” Howard drew the four-foot cold with his last rock to vanquish Kelowna’s Jeff Richard 7-6 on Sunday afternoon to extend the record. On the nightshift, meanwhile, Alberta’s Kevin Koe kept pace with his third win, a vital 7-6 decision against Brad Gushue of Newfoundland/Labrador. The score probably flattered the Newfs. They appeared to be chasing throughout. “It was a horrible game,” offered Gushue. “I thought they outcurled us. We were hanging on right from the get-go. If Kevin makes a good one in the fourth end it’s pretty well over early. It seemed like every shot I had was all or nothing and I made a lot of them and unfortunately missed one in the eighth end to give them three and that was the ball game there.” Gushue had twice forged his way in front after yielding a first-end deuce but he eschewed a risky corner-double tight to a guard in the eighth, missed a hit and roll off an outside rock instead and left Koe a draw to the four-foot for the three. “We weren’t getting the rocks in play early and we weren’t getting the shots in there to get us out of trouble early enough,” said Gushue. “We kept digging holes but we couldn’t get out of that one in the eighth.” Koe, who flashed a hit to enable the Newfs the go-ahead theft of two in the fourth, agreed: “The eighth was the turning point,” he said. “That was definitely the key. Even when they stole the two I didn’t panic because I thought we were dominating them. Even on the two ends they stole we had them in piles of trouble and Brad made great shots. I went aggressive on that one shot and missed it but the way we were playing I wasn’t too worried.” He added: “The longer you go without losses the better off you are.” Alberta goes right back at it Monday morning against Richard (1-and-2). The B.C. skip broke into the win column Sunday night with a 9-5 decision over winless Nova Scotia. “We knew we played well enough against Manitoba and Ontario in the first two games,” said Richard, who lost on last rock in both. “And our confidence remained high. But we didn’t want to go into tomorrow with a shutout threatening us.” Howard said he’s been happy with his performance since winning the Ford Hot Shots on Saturday. “From a personal perspective it was a great way to start,” he said. “You make a lot of shots out there and that gives you some momentum and helps you catch on to the ice. And Tim Yeo’s ice seems fantastic right now.” Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton won his third on the late draw, kayoing James Grattan of New Brunswick, who won his first two, then lost twice on Day Two. “We’re getting on to the conditions,” said the Manitoba skip, who moved to 3-and-1 with an 8-4 win and has a one-day assignment Monday— against Quebec. “The ice could be a little faster but we’ll see what they can do. There’s lots of curl and the rocks are running like you’d expect them to run.” Gushue is snarled with Quebec and Saskatchewan at 2-and-1. New Brunswick and Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs are 2-and-2.  Jacobs throttled Jamie Koe’s winless Territories team 9-5 in another late match. Earlier, Serge Reid Quebec scored a last-end deuce to beat Nova Scotia 8-7 in the afternoon while Gushue clobbered Darrell McKee of Saskatchewan 11-5 and Koe thumped Rod MacDonald’s Prince Edward Islanders 9-4. In the morning, Howard defeated Jacobs 9-4, Stoughton trumped MacDonald 9-4, Reid beat the Polars 7-3 and Saskatchewan won its second, 7-4 over Grattan with three in the 10th end. The Alberta win over Newfoundland was the province’s fifth in sixth games against Gushue, whose only Brier conquest of Alberta was an 8-6 win over Kevin Martin in 2007. Koe said he wasn’t concerned about such winning records.  “I’m more concerned about the record at the end of the week.” Gushue tossed plaudits in directions of the Koe team afterward. “They’re a good team,” he said. “There’s not much difference between them and Martin’s team. Martin is the best in the world right now but those guys (the Koe team) aren’t that far behind. If you don’t play well against them, you see what happens.” In another Monday morning test, Newfoundland/Labrador takes on the Bluenosers.