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BRIER

Brad Gushue clinches Brier playoff berth, Howard still perfect

By Con Griwkowsky, Edmonton Sun

Alberta skip Kevin Martin continued to make things interesting by winning his fifth straight at the 2013 Brier in Edmonton.(QMI Agency file photo)

Alberta skip Kevin Martin continued to make things interesting by winning his fifth straight at the 2013 Brier in Edmonton.(QMI Agency file photo)

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EDMONTON - 

Ontario's Glenn Howard has clearly proven he's the cream of the crop at this year's Brier.

Following Friday morning's draw, Howard was biding his time and watching the early-week leaders falter.

Brad Gushue of Newfoundland bounced back from a morning loss to Alberta's Kevin Martin to clinch a playoff spot. After losing three straight games to former Brier champions, Gushue finished his week at 8-3 with a 5-4 win over 2006 winner Jean-Michel Menard of Quebec.

"We played well enough -- we deserve to be in the playoffs this week, in my opinion," said Gushue, who made the playoffs for the seventh time in 10 Brier appearances. "We played very well against the two big-name teams in Kevin (Martin) and Glenn (Howard). They brought their best against us and we lost on last-rock in both.

"We controlled the other eight games that we won. We deserve to be there now. We've got to forget about it, to a certain extent, and try to step it up a notch to see if we can get on a roll."

Wins by Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton and Northern Ontario's Brad Jacobs in the evening draw would assure no tiebreaker Saturday.

"It feels really good to go out there and get that win," said Jacobs, who flexed his muscles in a Thursday night win over Stoughton.

He finishes up against Nova Scotia's Paul Flemming.

"We can't let up," said Jacobs, who earned at least a tiebreaker appearance with a 7-4 win over New Brunswick's James Grattan. "Got to eat and get some Red Bull in us. We have a job to do. We know if we win, we're in. We just need to stay on our sheet, put a bubble over it. As long as we focus, the outcome will be favourable."

Martin continued his Lazarus-like resurrection from his self-declared death, winning his fifth straight and earning a chance to sneak into a possible tiebreaker. He beat Gushue 6-5 Friday morning.

"It's getting fun," said Martin's second Marc Kennedy, whose team faces Howard in an evening do-or-die battle. "The nice thing is, the crowd has been able to watch our ups and downs the whole week. There's a lot of emotion out of the crowd. You can tell they're behind us. They're just hoping for something to happen."

Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton was incredulous after giving up a three-ender in the 10th in a 7-5 morning loss to Jamie Koe of the Territories, but still has a shot at a spot in the 1-2 game.

"They played well, we didn't," said Stoughton in an abrupt post-game scrum. "I missed too many easy shots. We're just not playing sharp."

After clinching first place Thursday night, Howard is now in cruise control.

"Another big win, now we have choice of hammer and rocks," said Howard after his 6-1 win over P.E.I. "We're just playing amazing. That's what I love the most. I have to admit, this is probably one of the best Briers I've seen the four of us play. It's been surreal."

con.griwkowsky@sunmedia.ca


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