Howard handling double duty with ease at Meridian Canadian Open

Glenn Howard delivers a stone during the fourth draw of the Meridian Canadian Open on Jan. 9, 2019, in North Battleford, Sask. (Anil Mungal)

NORTH BATTLEFORD, Sask. — Glenn Howard might want to invest in a reversible jacket for the Meridian Canadian Open.

Not only is Howard skipping his Penetanguishene, Ont., team in the Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling major event, he’s also behind the scoreboard coaching Eve Muirhead’s Scottish squad.

Howard, who has won 14 GSOC titles as a skip, had to juggle both roles back-and-forth Wednesday with Muirhead on the ice twice plus his own game sandwiched in the draw between. The 56-year-old Howard handled the hectic workload with ease defeating Sweden’s Team Niklas Edin 4-2 while Muirhead downed Sweden’s Team Anna Hasselborg 7-2 and earned a 6-2 victory over Team Casey Scheidegger of Lethbridge, Alta.

“No problem at all,” Howard said with a smile. “The fact I stay and hang around here, have a bite to eat, kind of relax in the changeroom and don’t get myself into any trouble.”

“It’s busy but a lot of fun,” he added. “On the same token, as I’m helping the girls out I’m reading the ice as well. It helps me for my team.”

Both Howard and Muirhead hold 2-0 records and are into the A-finals and one win away each from advancing to the playoffs with three opportunities to qualify.

“Obviously, couldn’t be happier,” Howard said. “Eve and the girls are playing well, we’re playing well, so it’s been a hell of a start to this Slam. I couldn’t ask for any better right now.”

The Meridian Canadian Open is the only one of the seven Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events to feature triple knockout where teams must win three games before they lose three in order to qualify for Saturday’s quarterfinals. The semis are also set for Saturday with the finals scheduled Sunday.

Howard, who is one of the Original 18 skips in the series, said he welcomes the switch as it allows teams to control their own destiny with direct paths to get into the playoffs.

“There’s no can we get in if so-and-so beats so-and-so, do you have the right draw-shot challenge, do you have the right blah, blah, blah,” he said. “You don’t have to worry about that. Just try and win three before you lose three, so that makes it a little bit simpler.

“I like the change-up. I love the fact that they make the Slams all a little bit different with the Elite 10 and now the triple and the sort of thing.”

Joining Howard on the bench for the earlier draw was former teammate Wayne Middaugh, who is coaching Team Hasselborg.

“A good buddy of mine and good banter on the bench,” Howard said. “We both want to win, we’re both trying to get our teams to win, but it’s a ton of fun. It’s a ton of fun being out there with him and really cool trying to give back to the game, both of us.”

Howard will play Scotland’s Team Bruce Mouat in the A-finals Thursday. Muirhead meets Japan’s Team Satsuki Fujisawa, who tripled up on Winnipeg’s Team Jennifer Jones 9-3 in the evening draw.

Elsewhere, Team Brad Jacobs of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., drew their record level to 1-1 in a B-side matchup defeating Saskatoon’s Team Rylan Kleiter 7-3. Team Jacobs, who lost 6-5 to Switzerland’s Team Peter de Cruz in the early afternoon, are playing in their first event with third Ryan Fry back in the lineup after taking a leave of absence. The three-time junior provincial champions Team Kleiter, who received the sponsor’s exemption spot, slipped into the C-side with a 0-2 record.

Edmonton’s Team Brendan Bottcher are through to the other A-final and will take on De Cruz. Both teams climbed to 2-0 records with Bottcher beating Regina’s Team Matt Dunstone 6-3 and De Cruz topping Calgary’s Team Kevin Koe 6-4.

Action resumes Thursday with Draw 6 at North Battleford’s Civic Centre at 8 a.m. local time. Broadcast coverage begins with Draw 7 at 12:30 p.m. ET on Sportsnet, Sportsnet NOW (Canada) and Yare (international).

NOTES: The Meridian Canadian Open is the fifth event and third major of the 2018-19 Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling season featuring 16 of the top men’s teams and 16 of the top women’s teams from around the globe. … Standard Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling rules apply: games are played to eight ends, the five-rock rule is in effect and teams receive 33 minutes of thinking time plus two, 90-second timeouts. … The combined purse is $250,000 with the winning teams earning $30,000 plus berths to the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup.

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