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Ontario's Howard opens Brier with dramatic win, Saskatchewan's McEwen starts strong

Saskatchewan skip Mike McEwen calls out to the sweepers while playing Team Canada during the Brier, in Regina, on Saturday, March 2, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck Saskatchewan skip Mike McEwen calls out to the sweepers while playing Team Canada during the Brier, in Regina, on Saturday, March 2, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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REGINA -- Howard fists pumped in triumph on the ice and on the bench at the Canadian men's curling championship Saturday when Ontario's Scott Howard threw a walk-off double takeout for the first Brier win of his career as a skip.

The son of four-time Canadian and world champion Glenn -- who is coaching Scott's foursome in Regina -- skimmed a guard and made the double to score three for a 7-5 win over B.C.'s Catlin Schneider.

Scott was under pressure with just 18 seconds remaining on Ontario's time clock when he delivered his last stone.

"You want to have the rock in your hand in the 10th end and I knew the shot was there and we were running out of time," the 33-year-old said. "I've always wanted to skip in a Brier and this is the time that's come true."

In other Pool A openers Saturday, Reid Carruthers beat Matt Dunstone 7-5 in an all-Manitoba matchup, Alberta's Brendan Bottcher earned an 11-3 win over Andrew Symonds of Newfoundland and Labrador, and Northern Ontario's Trevor Bonot defeated New Brunswick's James Grattan 9-4.

Saskatchewan's Mike McEwen (2-0) grabbed the early lead in Pool B with a 7-6 win in the evening over defending champion Brad Gushue.

"I love how we played this game," McEwen said. "It wasn't sneaking out one. It was a solid team performance. We've got to take advantage of when Brad and his team are not at their best, and they weren't at their best tonight."

Said Gushue: "Mike outplayed me. Mike played really well. I didn't play anywhere near as good as I usually do, so take it on the chin and come out ready tomorrow."

Alberta's Aaron Sluchinski (1-0) had the night off. Gushue, Alberta's Kevin Koe, Northwest Territories' Jamie Koe, Quebec's Julien Tremblay and Prince Edward Island's Tyler Smith were all 1-1.

Kevin Koe defeated younger brother Jamie 8-4, Tremblay beat Nunavut's Shane Latimer 11-4, and Smith picked up an 11-7 win over Nova Scotia's Matt Manuel (0-2).

Scott Howard played third for his father twice in five previous appearances at the Brier. Glenn was skipping Scott's team until a knee injury forced him out of the lineup in December.

Scott, David Mathers and Tim March won Ontario men's provincials as a three-man team before adding Mat Camm to play second in Regina.

Glenn's fist flew into the air at the same time as his son's Saturday.

"As soon as my knee went out in early December, the three of them raised their game exponentially," said Glenn, 61. "Scott took the helm as skip and he owns that position right now. I was just so proud of him to be able to come out and do that. You can see he's comfortable out there. He doesn't mind throwing the last shot."

The top three teams in each pool of nine advance to a six-team playoff round, from which the four Page playoff teams will emerge.

The Montana's Brier winner March 10 represents Canada at the world championship March 30 to April 7 in Schaffhausen, Switzerland and returns to the 2025 Brier in Kelowna, B.C., as defending champion.

The victor also earns a berth in next year's Olympic trials pending a top-six result at the world championship.

While the Howard name is prominent in Canadian curling circles, Scott acknowledged his team may be somewhat of an unknown in Regina given the late lineup shuffle this season.

"I'm sure a lot of people think we're a mystery team with Matt coming on," Scott said. "Skipping is not my regular position, but we've been doing some damage on the tour.”

“I've been lucky to come to a few Briers now. I feel confident. It's always a learning curve skipping that national event. To get that first win at the Brier means so much because it's a tough field and every win is so important here."

Watching his son pull out a dramatic win in his Brier debut as a skip carried extra emotional weight for dad.

"You don't want him to miss a bad shot. It hits the heart a little deeper. By the same token, when he makes a shot like that, it hits the heart that much deeper," Glenn said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 2, 2024.

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