Steals galore at Tim Hortons Brier

Theft was the name of the game Sunday morning at the Tim Hortons Brier, presented by Monsanto. Ontario’s Glenn Howard made three critical mid-game steals to stay undefeated, Saskatchewan’s Darrell McKee won his second straight game thanks to an eighth-end pilfer, and Quebec’s Serge Reid swindled points at will for his first victory of the tournament during the third draw of the Canadian men’s curling championship. Ontario (2-0) and Saskatchewan (2-0) lead the 12-team pack. Kevin Koe of Alberta (1-0) and 2006 Olympic gold medallist Brad Gushue of Newfoundland and Labrador (1-0) lead the other undefeated outfits heading into Sunday’s fourth draw, slated for 3 p.m. AT. Howard, making his fifth straight appearance as Ontario’s skipper, stole single points in the fourth, fifth and sixth ends en route to a 9-4 victory over the Northern Ontario (1-2) crew skipped by Brad Jacobs. “I’m not super confident yet. The ice is still a little tricky,” said Howard, whose Coldwater and District Curling Club rink includes third Richard Hart, second Brent Laing and lead Craig Savill. “But a great comeback for us. We gave up a bad three in the second end, and came back with a nice deuce, and then plucked away and got a couple of fortunate misses out of Brad. “It wasn’t working out for them . . . a couple of shots that I would say (Jacobs) doesn’t normally miss, but he did. And fortunately for us, it worked out.” Saskatchewan, led by Saskatoon skip Darrell McKee, outlasted the formerly undefeated New Brunswick (2-1) outfit of James Grattan 7-4 on Sunday morning. Quebec (1-1) pounded Jamie Koe’s winless Territories (0-3) rink by a 7-3 count, and Jeff Stoughton’s Manitobans (2-1) counted four in the second end on their way to a 9-4 victory over Rod MacDonald’s winless Prince Edward Islanders (0-2). On Sheet D, McKee’s flatlanders scored a huge steal of one in the eighth end to go up 4-2, after Grattan’s final stone found its way through a narrow port but failed to push Saskatchewan’s shot rock far enough into the back of the rings. “That was huge. It gave us total control of the game,” said McKee, whose Saskatoon-based quartet from the Nutana Curling Club includes third Bruce Korte, second Roger Korte and lead Rob Markowsky. “The worst we should have been was tied up coming home (which they were), so that was a really big point. “It’s nice to be 2-0,” added McKee. “The last two Briers we were at, we were 0-2. Nice to get off to a good start. Notoriously, Saskatchewan’s been off to bad starts at the Brier the past few years, other than (skip Pat) Simmons a couple of years ago.” Grattan, back at the Brier as New Brunswick’s skip for the fourth time, viewed Sunday morning’s loss as a game of missed opportunities. “We had a bunch of chances early. Both teams did, but I always remember the ones that we had,” said Grattan, whose Gage Golf and Curling Association crew of Oromocto, N.B., includes third Steve Howard, second Jason Vaughan and lead Peter Case. “We had a few chances early to take a few deuces and get away from them a little bit, but we never capitalized.” As for that Saskatchewan steal in the eighth, “That pretty much ended up being the game changer right there,” said Grattan. “I thought I had it pretty easily. Once I got through the hole, I thought it was going to be fine.” Reid’s crew from the Kenogami Curling Club of Jonquiere, Que., stole one in the second, one in the third, and two in each of the fourth and fifth ends for a 7-0 lead after five. “Important for us to get our first win at the Brier. Not so much pressure now,” said Reid, whose team includes third Francois Gionest, second Simon Collin and lead Steeve Villeneuve. “Our guys curled well, but I didn’t necessarily curl a great game. I missed a couple of easy shots,” added Reid. “But on the other side, we got a lot of breaks.” As for the ‘Tobans, last year’s runners-up in Calgary, they notched that four-ender in the second on a triple-takeout by Stoughton. “We were pretty fortunate to get the four-ender there, and we just played well after that,” said Stoughton. “If (MacDonald) doesn’t throw his last one, we have a shot for one. But he lined it up for us, and we were able to get an angle-raise for four.” Sunday afternoon’s fourth draw pits Quebec vs. Nova Scotia (0-1), Saskatchewan vs. Newfoundland/Labrador, Ontario vs. British Columbia (0-1), and Alberta vs. P.E.I.