Four world champions setting the pace

It’s a familar tune they’re playing at the Canada Cup of Curling, men’s division, following Day Two play at the Medicine Hat Arena. Four world champs head the qualifying pools with three victories apiece. Three of the four are unbeaten.

Glenn Howard (Photo: CCA/Brennan Schnell)

Glenn Howard of Coldwater, Ont., moved to join the frontrunners Thursday night, posting a 10-3 victory over Rob Fowler’s winless outfit from Brandon. Howard leads his side of the draw with a 3-and-0 record while current Brier champion Kevin Koe of Edmonton is 3-and-1. In the other pool, Olympic gold-medallist Kevin Martin of Edmonton is running neck-and-neck with arch-rival Randy Ferbey at 3-and-0. Ferbey is skipping an alignment that includes Brad Gushue of St. John’s throwing last rocks. Howard yielded a stolen single in the first end to Fowler, then hung up a three, a stolen deuce and shut down the debate with a five-ender in the sixth panel. Martin registered his third during the afternoon shift, a vengeance-tinged 8-4 triumph over Mike McEwen (2-and—1) of Winnipeg. McEwen kayoed Martin in the quarter-finals of the season’s first Slam ‘spiel at Windsor. “I think both teams were keyed up to play each other,” said Martin. He refused to relinquish control of the game even though McEwen tied the count twice. But when Martin scored his second deuce of the match in the sixth end, McEwen was able to respond with only a single. Then Martin applied the crusher with a three-spot to close it out in eight ends. “We gave away too many freebies,” said McEwen. “If you do that against that team you’re behind the eight-ball in a hurry. They made the shots they had to. I don’t think either team was exceptional.” Martin hailed McEwen’s as “the hottest team in Canada”. “I enjoyed that,” Martin said. “I enjoy big games and that was a big game.” Howard played his third game in the evening, one draw after Koe had played his fourth. “We’ve had a lot of time off. But we’re playing well. Wayne (third Middaugh) hasn’t missed a shot this week,” said the skip from the Georgian Bay area. “Now we get two (Friday) — Mat Camm and my son Scott, and then Koe in the evening.” There’ll be some scores to settle between father and son. Scott, playing with Middaugh, beat the old man at the Brooks cashspiel last month. Tonight’s confrontation will be a rematch of the Brier final last March. Sharing the spotlight on the 6 p.m. draw will be a collision of ancient rivals Martin and Ferbey. Elsewhere on the Thursday afternoon draw, Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton handed Koe his first loss — 5-3 — and Calgary rookie Brent Bawel erupted for a 9-1 smothering of Fowler. Elsewhere on the late shift, Stoughton blasted Bawel (1-and-3) by a 7-2 count while Serge Reid of Jonquiere won a battle of winless teams with an 8-2 drubbing of Mat Camm’s Ottawa junior team. Koe defeated Reid 8-5 in the morning while Ferbey thumped Camm 7-2. In other key match today, Ferbey and McEwen collide on the sunrise slate at 9 a.m. The 47-year-old Stoughton, a two-time Brier winner, squared his record after two sluggish starts. “We didn’t catch on to the ice the first couple of games here,” said the Winnipegger. “But this was a much better day for us. Actually, we’ve had a great year. We’ve lost in two finals. I think the team was gaining momentum. “Now we’re going to try to run the table here and hope to get something on the weekend.” Stoughton’s team of Jonathan Mead, Reid Carruthers and Steve Gould is prepping to try to win its ninth Manitoba title and another crack at the Tim Hortons Brier. “That’s our goal,” said Stoughton. “We have two Slams, then the provincial playdowns for which we’ve already qualified. Definitely, we want to get back to the Brier.”