Howard cruises into Canadian Open semis

Glenn Howard and his team are on a serious hot streak, but all the top teams from around the world will be looking to cool them down at the Canadian Open in the Grand Slam of Curling. (Anil Mungal)

Defending champion Glenn Howard eased his way into the Canadian Open semifinals with a 6-3 win over Toronto’s John Epping on Saturday in Medicine Hat, Alta.

Howard, a 15-time Grand Slam champion, snapped a 1-1 tie with a three-ender in the fifth and a steal of one in the sixth to pull away with a four-point lead.

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Epping shortened the gap with a deuce in the seventh but trailed 5-3 and Howard held the hammer coming home.

The two rinks kept the house clean in the first and Howard, from Penetanguishene, Ont., attempted to blank the end but his final shot hit-and-roll lingered in the house and was stuck around for a single and a 1-0 lead. Epping tied it up with a one in the second.

Elsewhere, Brad Gushue scored a clutch four-ender in the final frame to lift his St. John’s, N.L., rink to a 7-4 victory over Edmonton’s Kevin Martin.

The two skips have both won gold medals in the past and will team up heading into the Canadian Olympic trials. Gushue missed out on qualifying his own rink for the Roar of the Rings but will join Team Martin as an alternate.

In the tiebreakers, Winnipeg’s Jeff Stoughton scored two in the extra end for a 6-4 win over Peter de Cruz, from Switzerland.

Rob Rumfeldt’s final stone in the extra end took out Winnipeg’s Mike McEwen’s shot rock and came to a rest in the four-foot circle to lift his Guelph, Ont., rink to a 7-6 victory.

Rumfeldt will now face Calgary’s Kevin Koe and Stoughton takes on Toronto’s Mark Kean in the second draw of quarterfinals.

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