Alberta, Ontario share Brier lead

The Tim Hortons Brier form chart is beginning to run true to form. The two former champions in the field — Alberta’s Kevin Koe (2010) and Ontario’s Glenn Howard (2007) — headed into their last four round-robin assignments today and Thursday with 6-and-1 records. If there’s been a difference during their respective first seven games, it’s the manner in which their victories have rolled out.

Glenn Howard watches his play during Draw 11 of the 2012 Tim Hortons Brier. (Photo: CCA/Michael Burns Photography)

Koe has admitted his opponents applied limited pressure as he won six. By comparison, Howard finally won a relatively simple one on Tuesday night — 8-4 over Manitoba’s Rob Fowler — after four consecutive extra-end nailbiters. Alberta’s Koe, with Pat Simmons, Carter Rycoft and Nolan Thiessen, was the last to lose his unbeaten status when Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs hung up a 7-6 last-rock verdict on Tuesday afternoon. Howard, with Wayne Middaugh, Brent Laing and Craig Savill, won twice, earlier slipping past Saskatchewan’s Scott Manners 7-5 with a deuce in overtime. It was Howard’s record 175th Brier game, surpassing the 174-game log previously recorded by his brother Russ. In the nightcap, Howard was leading 2-1 in the fifth when Fowler tossed a light draw and enabled Ontario to steal a killer three. “I don’t know what happened,” said Howard. “I wasn’t paying attention and I heard Rob yell and he came up light and we stole three. I was shocked. He makes that and we go 2-2 at the half and probably another barnburner that goes 11 ends. We got lucky there.” (Continued Below…) Draw 11 Photos
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The game was done in nine panels. “It was kind of nice to get one less end for a change,” said the Ontario skip. “We’re getting a little better. We’d love to put the rocks in together a little more often. Still not vintage Team Howard but we’re getting closer all the time.” Howard plays B.C. and P.E.I. today. “We’ve been concentrating on the ice and the nuances,” he said. “It has been a little bit different but it’s getting better all the time. You always have to read ice and rocks at a Brier and I think we’re doing a good job with it here.” Koe’s brother Jamie, steering the Territories crew from Yellowknife, faltered in his quest to stay with the leaders Tuesday night when he was bounced 9-6 by the lowly Prince Edward Islanders skipped by Mike Gaudet. The victory for Gaudet was his second of the day, also the tournament. “That’s the first time we’ve accomplished that, two straight,” allowed Gaudet. “I think if we play solid as a team we can get better no matter who we’re playing. I definitely enjoy playing the toughest teams and putting in a solid effort. Everyone picked up everyone else when we needed it.” Jamie Koe (5-2) pleaded guilty to a bad night. (Continued below…) httpvh:// “They played well and I just didn’t have it myself,” he said. “We had some chances and I just missed a bunch of shots. I didn’t have it at all. We have to figure out what went wrong and get ready for tomorrow.” The Koe brothers face off this morning at 8:30 CT. At 4-3 heading into today were Fowler of Manitoba, B.C.’s Jim Cotter and Jamie Murphy of CFB Halifax. Fowler knocked off Murphy 10-7 in the morning but Murphy bounced back to defeat Manners 10-7 on the late draw. “We had seven pretty good ends tonight but this ice is so good you can bury in the wings and when you miss a couple of peels they’ll score three on you in a hurry,” said the Bluenose skip who should have salted away the issue with a four-ender in the seventh but allowed Saskatchewan right back in it with three in the eighth. It was a one-point game after Murphy wrecked with last rock in the ninth. “But the guys played well coming home and we had it set up pretty good,” he said. “He (Manners) almost didn’t have a shot.” The Nova Scotians were bad guys with the home-province crowd and Murphy allowed: “That’s the most nervous I’ve ever been in a curling game. We pretty well had everyone rooting against us.” Quebec’s Robert Desjardins, aka Curling Bob, won his second of the week in one other late tilt, disposing of New Brunswick’s Terry Odishaw 8-3.