MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – Kevin Martin and Glenn Howard became the first two teams to qualify for the quarter-finals of the World Cup of Curling on Thursday.
Martin and Howard are tied atop the leadboad at 4-0 in the 14-team field comprised of five of Canada’s top 2010 Olympic hopefuls and nine international 2010 Olympic qualifiers.
Edmonton’s Kevin Koe, with a record of 3-0, is the only other unbeaten squad at the tournament.
Martin improved to 4-0 with a 5-4 extra end victory over Norway’s Thomas Ulsrud in Draw 5.
With Martin leading Ulsrud 4-3 after seven ends, the Norwegian forced an extra end with an extremely difficult raised takeout off his own stone to score the tying point.
In the extra frame, Martin executed a straight line takeout to remain undefeated at the event.
“The only missed shot (in the entire game) was when I missed that in-turn tap early in the third end,” said Martin. “That was about the only big miss in the whole curling game. Now that’s pretty good shooting. It was fun.”
Martin, who hails from Edmonton, picked up his second and third victories of the tournament earlier Thursday after doubling up France’s Thomas Dufour 6-3 in the morning’s first draw before sliding past China’s Fengchun Wang 8-4 later in the afternoon.
After giving up a steal of two points to Wang in the first end, Martin fought back to seize a 4-3 lead after four ends. Leading 5-4 after six ends, Martin executed an open hit for three points to secure the victory.
Howard, of Coldwater, Ont., secured his spot in the playoff round with a 4-1 victory over Brad Gushue (1-3) of St. John’s, N.L.
“Obviously the first accomplishment is trying to get yourself into the playoffs,” said Howard. “If you get into the quarter-finals it doesn’t matter where you land. You’re in the quarter-finals and that’s right where you want to be.”
Tied at 1-1 through five ends, Howard jumped ahead in the sixth after making an open draw for two points. Howard was than able to steal a point in the seventh frame to lead by three heading into the final end.
Earlier Thursday, Howard earned his third victory of the tournament with an 8-3 win over reigning World Championship gold medallist David Murdoch of Scotland.
Tied at 2-2, Howard broke open the game in fourth end after executing a hit to score three points. The 2007 World Championship gold medallists then put the game out of reach in the sixth, scoring another triple.
Howard defeated Denmark’s Ulrik Schmidt 9-3 in his first game.
Koe posted a pair of victories after defeating Ulsrud 6-4 and edging past Edmonton’s Randy Ferbey 7-6 in an extra end.
Tied at 1-1 with Ferbey in the second, Koe executed an open hit to score three points for a 4-1 advantage.
With Koe leading 6-4 after seven ends, Ferbey sent the game into an extra frame after making an open hit for two points in the eighth. In the extra end, Koe successfully executed an open draw for the winning point.
“We played real good early to get up,” said Koe. “Then we missed some shots that we normally don’t miss. Some big weight shots. We could have won the game early but (Ferbey’s team) is great. They made a number of freezes. But we got the win. That’s all that counts.”
With the loss, Ferbey fell to 1-2 on the tournament.
The defeat was Ferbey’s second straight after dropping an 8-3 decision to Sweden’s Niklas Edin earlier in the afternoon.
Trailing Edin 4-3 in the seventh, fourth Dave Nedohin’s final stone picked on a one-point draw, allowing the Swedish national team to steal four points to secure the victory.