HALIFAX, N.S. - Ontario's Glenn Howard has some company at the top of the 2010 Tim Hortons Brier standings.
Alberta's Kevin Koe joined the three-time Brier winner at 3-0 after downing Brad Gushue's Newfoundland and Labrador rink 7-6, in a seesaw battle that wasn't decided until the 10th end Sunday.
Koe, making his first Brier appearance, used the hammer to good advantage in the eighth, drawing for three to take the lead after Gushue's last shot failed to clear two Alberta rocks from the four foot.
"Huge. That was definitely the key end. That's the turning point there," said Koe, the first Alberta skip in 11 years not named Kevin Martin or Randy Ferbey.
"Worst case, you think you should be tied up coming home with the hammer, but we got one more," he said.
"It was a back and forth game but a win's a win. They're always tough, especially against Brad."
For Gushue it was a hard loss to swallow dropping him to 2-1 with Quebec and Saskatchewan.
"It was a horrible game. I thought they outcurled us. We were hanging on right from the get go," said Gushue who next faces winless Nova Scotia.
"It seemed like every shot I made was all or nothing and unfortunately I missed one in the eighth end."
Howard had to hang in tough Sunday to get his third win, a 7-6 tenth end, last-rock draw against B.C.'s Jeff Richard who has been playing everybody tough.
It was the second day in a row Richard pushed a former Brier winner to the brink, forcing Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton into an extra end in their Saturday game but losing in similar fashion.
Richard said he didn't come to Halifax to be intimidated by the big guns.
"You've got to stay close with them. If you let those guys get ahead they're going to run you out of the building," said Richard who jumped to 1-2, getting his first win against Nova Scotia.
Richard said taking on the stronger teams early is not a bad thing.
"It takes a while for everyone to catch on to the ice, even Stoughton and Howard's rinks, so we gave ourselves good chances to win."
In other action Sunday, Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton beat P.E.I and New Brunswick to improve to 3-1.
The two-time Brier winner said his rink felt like they had a little more control over their shots and were better rested.
"I like where we're sitting. Just got to keep winning. That's all it takes," he said.
"The ice is good. There's lots of curl and the hits are running so no complaints about the ice."
New Brunswick and Northern Ontario fell to 2-2 while P.E.I., Nova Scotia and the Northwest Territories/Yukon remain winless.
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