Howard’s only defeat costs him automatic bid to finals

Glenn Howard’s first and only round-robin loss at the Canadian Olympic curling trials cost him an automatic trip to the men’s final.

Kevin Martin celebrates a key shot during his 8-6 win over Team Howard during the 2009 Canadian Olympic Curling Trials in Edmonton on Thursday to clinch first place in the round robin.

EDMONTON — Glenn Howard’s first and only round-robin loss at the Canadian Olympic curling trials cost him an automatic trip to the men’s final.

Kevin Martin made a runback double in the ninth end to score three points against Howard late Thursday, advancing to the tournament final and moving one win away from a spot in the 2010 Vancouver Games.

Howard, who went into the game undefeated in round robin play, was leading 6-5 in a tightly played game before Martin’s late game heroics handed the Coldwater, Ont., skip a 8-6 loss. Both rinks finished with 6-1 records, but Martin advanced to the final by virtue of the head-to-head win.

“Glenn didn’t put his right where he wanted so he left a pocket there. I could have hit off of ours or off of his and the results the same,” said Martin, the reigning Brier champion and the 2002 Olympic silver medallist.

“Glenn had control for the whole game until the ninth and then Johnny locked that freeze absolutely perfect in there and now we’ve got them on the run for two and we ended up getting three,” the Edmonton skip added. “We’re right where we want to be and we have hammer in the final.”

The final placement at the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings Curling Trials ironically are identical to the Brier in Calgary.

Martin beat Howard in the last game of the round robin and in the one-versus-two playoff game and advanced to the final. Howard then lost the semifinal against Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton.

“It seems to be (the same) but hopefully it’s a different result,” said a frustrated Howard after the game.

Howard said his first shot in the ninth end picked, which set up the three points for Martin.

“I’m just frustrated with the pick. That ticks me off a little bit but what do you do — it’s all part of the game,” Howard said.

“I felt we had the momentum in that game and it sure didn’t look like he was going to get a three ender but that stuff happens.”

Martin will now sit back and watch while Howard and Stoughton play in Saturday’s semifinal.

Stoughton narrowly avoided dropping into a tiebreaker in his game against Pat Simmons of Davidson, Sask. He needed a deuce in the 10th end to beat Simmons 8-7 and clinch the final playoff spot.

“You always feel pretty confident you’re going to get the deuce and we made some good ones at the end there and what can I say — the guys played great,” Stoughton said. “We’re looking forward to Saturday.”

And like Howard he is hoping to avoid having history repeat itself after being pounded by Martin in the Brier final.

“The three of us played the last three games last year at the Brier and hopefully we can win the last two instead of losing the last one,” he added.

Howard still feels confident about his chances despite the loss against Martin.

“We always have epic battle there’s no doubt about it and I think we’ve shown that over the last four or five years,” he said. “It’s such a fine line and I think we are a little bit better but it’s a fine, fine line.”

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