Skip Glenn Howard leads Ontario to 11-0 record in round robin; will face N. Ont.
Ontario finished with a perfect round-robin record at the Tim Hortons Brier, and skip Glenn Howard believes his team is just getting warmed up.
HALIFAX, N.S. - Ontario finished with a perfect round-robin record at the Tim Hortons Brier, and skip Glenn Howard believes his team is just getting warmed up.
Howard led his veteran rink to an 11-0 record heading into the playoffs this weekend with a 7-6 win over Kevin Koe's Alberta rink in the Brier's round-robin finale Thursday.
By defeating Koe, Howard's foursome is on track to become the third straight team to run the table at the Brier.
"What I like the best is we started a little slow at the beginning of the week, but we have just gotten better and better," Howard said. "My guys are making everything. It's just a great feeling, from a confidence perspective, for all four of us."
Ontario will face Northern Ontario in the 1-2 Page playoff Friday night, with the winner earning a berth into Sunday's championship game. Alberta will take on Newfoundland and Labrador's Brad Gushue in the 3-4 Page playoff on Saturday, with both knowing that no team has emerged from the 3-4 game to win the title.
"We feel like we're playing good enough to definitely get to the final," said Koe. "We just lost a tight one to Glenn, so that could have gone either way. I'm not overly worried about having to play extra games, for sure. It's just nice to have that extra life."
Howard had improved his record to 10-0 with a sound thrashing of the Northwest Territories/Yukon rink earlier in the day, a 9-3 win that secured top spot for Ontario. He pounded his northern opponent into submission by counting four in the eighth end, just one day after a four-ender sparked a big win over Manitoba.
Nobody on the ice this year can match Howard's experience at the Brier. The 47-year-old, who for years fought to escape from the shadow cast by his legendary older brother, Russ, is competing in his 12th Canadian championship, and with a team that has played together for the last six years.
"We want to win every single game," Howard said. "And now we've got to play Northern Ontario - who have obviously had a great Brier - so we've got our hands full."
Ontario's success on the ice isn't always reflected in the stands. The province's curling fans don't wrap themselves in their provincial flag as fervently as their counterparts from Newfoundland and Labrador. They don't have an answer for the distinctive yellow sou'wester hats worn by the Nova Scotians, or the moose antlers worn by their Northern Ontario cousins.
They do, however, have 78-year-old have Jack Cox.
He has been sprinting up the aisles with a chalkboard-sized Ontario flag for more than a decade at the Brier, marking each run with a trademark, loon-sounding "Onn-tarr-eee-ooh."
"I only run after the ends, because other people are watching other games," he said, panting and sweaty after an early run Thursday. "And I don't like getting in their way."
Northern Ontario, meanwhile, is led by a skip who was not even alive the last time his team won the Brier. Brad Jacobs was born the same year Al Hackner led curling's breakout team to its last Canadian men's title, in 1985, but has shown no ill-effects from his relative youth.
Jacobs orchestrated a 9-3 romp over Quebec in the afternoon draw, sending his rink into the playoffs with a remarkable 9-2 record.
"We wanted to represent Northern Ontario as well as we possibly could," Jacobs said. "And I think we've done a great job of it so far."
Gushue, who is suddenly the second-most experienced skip remaining at the Brier, faces a more difficult journey to Sunday's final. The 29-year-old, who had already been a skip the Brier six times before this year, described his 8-3 record as "the worst we've played."
He snuffed out any threat of a tie-breaker by leading his Newfoundland rink to an 8-2 romp over Quebec, a win that eliminated Manitoba skip Jeff Stoughton, who had been hoping to sneak in the back door. The two-time Brier champion finished the round robin 7-4 after an extra-end victory over Saskatchewan earlier in the day
"I just think we're a better team than what we were at the last few Briers, so my expectations are higher for our team than, say, three or four years ago," Gushue said.
"The play might be exactly the same, it's just that I expect more. Once you get to that level you want it every time, and I guess that's where I am."