EDMONTON — The hottest rivalry in men’s curling will be renewed today as Glenn Howard and Kevin Martin battle for the right to represent Canada at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.
Howard, from Coldwater, Ont., curled a near perfect game against Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton on Saturday to earn an 11-6 win in the semifinal of the Canadian Olympic curling trials. Howard scored deuces in the first, third and sixth ends and then made a hit for four in the 10th to put the game away.
“This is what we came for,” said Howard, who curled at 94 per cent efficiency against Stoughton. “We wanted to get to Sunday and that’s what we’ve done — and man, my boys played well for me today and that’s what we’re hoping for tomorrow. I was really zoned in, I felt great this morning and went out and threw some rocks. I had a really nice feeling the whole day — a lot better than the semifinal last year at the Brier (where he lost to Stoughton).”
Howard made a dazzling shot in the third end to score two which gave him a 4-1 lead.
“It was an angle double-raised double,” said Howard as he tried to describe the shot to reporters.
Stoughton, who lost the 2005 trials final to Brad Gushue, said he couldn’t afford to let himself get behind a team as good as Howard’s — but credited his foursome for drawing to within a single point in the ninth end. Still, the loss left a sour taste in his mouth.
“I would probably take nothing away from this event because we didn’t win. We’ve lost the finals, we’ve been to Briers. there’s nothing here that we’re learning,” Stoughton said. “So there’s nothing I can take away from here except that you go out and practice more and be better.”
It was one of the best games that Howard has played this year and he hopes it carries over to the game against his old arch nemesis Martin in the final of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Curling Trials, presented by Monsanto.
“If we play well and win the game — that’s what we came for,” said Howard. “It’s four years of preparation and this is where we want to be so it can’t get any better than this at this point. I think it will be one shot here or there. That’s what’s going to be the difference because you’re going to have two great teams out there.”
The rivalry between the two men isn’t bitter by any stretch, but the mood is certainly on the serious side. An example of how much emotion can erupt in a game came in the final round-robin game between the two teams last Thursday.
Howard third Richard Hart complained that counterpart Ben Hebert had dumped debris during his skip’s first stone in the ninth end. He lifted his brush straight up and didn’t finish his sweeping motion.
“I hope it’s gone. You know what I think it is. We’ve all talked about it. We’ve all spoke our piece and we’re ready to curl,” said Hart. “It was a bit of a misunderstanding and we’re ready to curl.”
The accusation riled Martin lead Marc Kennedy, who was still seething Saturday.
“Whatever Richard’s motives are — we’ve seen him do this before. He did this to us at the Brier in ’08 when he thought John was laying on the ice,” he said.
“All I have to say is we’ve played Glenn 22 times in four years and in the ninth end of the last round-robin game of the Olympics trials he finally says something about our sweeping. I think that gives you an idea of what the motives are.”