Sunday, April 20, 2008

Rock Report V: Hebert blows a tire

by Dean Gemmell

ST. JOHN’S – Loads of great shotmaking across all four sheets even as two games failed to go the distance.

Team Wayne Middaugh, down two playing the third against Team Pat Simmons, caught a bad break when Wayne’s last-rock hit for three seemed to pick and was suddenly transformed into a steal of one. By the time Middaugh managed a deuce, they were down 5-0. Maybe it was the curling gods finally smiling on Pat after the dose of misfortune they meted out at the Tim Horton’s Brier in Winnipeg.

Team Glenn Howard’s win over Team Greg McAulay was clinical. If they weren’t such nice guys, it would have felt downright mean. Howard (Insight Sports photo by Anil Mungal) basically ended it in the first when he scored four, using one of his patented down-weight taps to do it.

Team Kevin Koe dismantled Team Kerry Burtnyk who, despite my earlier ramblings about their seeming malaise, found a way to qualify. Good for them. After a rough early outing against Kevin Martin, Team Koe appears to have its mojo back.

And any time Martin and Randy Ferbey play, it’s good for curling. So much great shooting and all that back story. It was no different tonight. Martin was comfortably in control until the seventh when Ben Hebert blew a tire – his gripper came flying off in a way you might see at your club’s fall Open House – and burned a Marc Kennedy runback as he hit the deck. Eventually, Ferb third David Nedohin drew about three-quarters buried in the top four and Martin failed to tap it far enough, surrendering a steal of one.

Hebert made amends by starting the eighth with two ticks, the second one leaving the Ferbey stone just a breath away from the side boards. Nedohin hung around to sweep it but one had to think that if he had been joined by Scott Pfeifer and Marcel Rocque – instead of Ferbey – they might have been able to get it those last couple of inches. After that, things went according to plan and Martin needed only a draw to the eight-foot with his last rock to win the game.

Team Ferbey probably didn’t need one more defeat against Martin to chew on over the summer but they have it nonetheless.

Watching the play tonight brought the differences among the men’s teams into even sharper focus. Martin and Howard, possibly the two greatest skips the game has seen, are leading extraordinary teams and have created some definite distance between themselves and the field. Koe is awfully close. Simmons is narrowing the gap. For now, Ferbey and Middaugh come up just behind them. After that, everyone is chasing.

The good news is that there are some very good young guns in the mix. It may take a few years but eventually the tides will turn. Take the advice Ben Hebert offered in a recent issue of The Curling News and enjoy the forty-something superstars while you can.

Finally, Amber Holland was next door in the CurlTV booth for the last couple of ends of Ferbey-Martin. Team Krista McCarville was in the pub overlooking the ice. I’m not sure who wins and who loses on that one.

Since there’s only one direct flight each day between St. John’s and Newark and I have to be in New Jersey on Monday, I’ll miss the games today. With Martin, Howard, Koe and Simmons on the last big day of the season, I definitely lose on that one.


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