HALIFAX — Glenn Howard keeps on rolling at the Tim Hortons Brier.
The Ontario skip clinched a playoff spot Wednesday with a 9-5 win over Newfoundland and Labrador’s Brad Gushue and an 8-4 defeat of Manitoba’s Jeff Stoughton.
At 9-0, Ontario is guaranteed a trip to the No. 1 versus No. 2 Page playoffs on Friday.
“We were really solid tonight. We were making a ton of shots,” said Howard.
“We knew we had our challenge. It’s a little uncharacteristic of Manitoba, but boy they keep coming back at you.”
The top four teams advance to the Page playoffs, where the top two rinks square off for a spot in the final. The loser of that game plays the winner of the other playoff between the third- and fourth-place teams in Saturday’s semifinal. The final goes Sunday.
Ontario must still face the Northwest Territories/Yukon and Alberta in round-robin play Thursday.
Howard said the fact they’re through to the weekend will not affect his rink’s approach.
“We’re not going to go out there and rest on our laurels,” he said. “We’re going to go hard. We’re going to go out there and play as well as we possibly can.”
The loss to Howard only compounded Stoughton’s misery by handing the Manitoba skip his second defeat of the day, moving him to 5-4.
He also lost to Gushue, who now finds himself tied with Alberta and Northern Ontario at 7-2.
“It was a win but I still don’t think we’re playing very well,” said Gushue. “We’ve just got to get the rocks set up a little bit better early. To stay in the game we’ve got to make those.”
He said it was a tough loss against Howard but ending the day with a split still left his rink in good position to advance to the playoffs.
“A couple more wins and we can get into the one-two game,” he said.
Gushue has yet to play Northern Ontario and Quebec (5-4).
Alberta’s Kevin Koe claimed two wins Wednesday, 6-3 over New Brunswick and 7-6 over Quebec in the early draw.
“Strange for us the way this week has gone,” said Koe, whose two losses came to Nova Scotia and B.C., both weaker rinks. “A couple more routine wins. It’s nice on the old nerves.
“But we’ve still got ourselves in a good spot going into the last night (of round-robin play).”
Meanwhile, Northern Ontario’s Brad Jacobs continued his quiet climb up the standings, dropping P.E.I. 7-6 by scoring two with his final rock in the 10th end.
“I think maybe the fans are surprised but we’re not surprised by the way we’re playing,” said Jacobs, who at 24 is the youngest skip at the tournament.
Jacobs said his foursome isn’t feeling the pressure, even though Northern Ontario hasn’t hoisted won the Brier since 1985.
“We’ve got a lot to prove and so far I think we’re doing a pretty good job of that,” said Jacobs.
His rinks seem to be getting stronger as a unit and the credit goes to his three teammates, he added.
“They’re animals,” Jacobs said. “They’re phenomenal players and we’re just putting on a performance every game.”
In other late draw action, Saskatchewan (4-5) dumped the Northwest Territories/Yukon 13-4 to drop Jamie Koe’s rink to 1-8.
New Brunswick’s James Grattan (3-6) beat Quebec 7-2 to leave Serge Reid with a 5-4 record.