It was the toughest day on the schedule for Canada's Glenn Howard at the world men's curling championship.
The unbeaten Ontario skip didn't let up Wednesday against the formidable one-two punch of Sweden's Niklas Edin and Scotland's Tom Brewster, handing both playoff contenders the same fate as every other opponent he's faced so far.
Along the way, Howard locked up the No. 1 seed and a berth in the Page 1-versus-2 playoff while showing the rest of the field why he's the clear favourite to win a world title for a fourth time.
“Every team that comes out here, we've got to play like they're the biggest ones here and that's what we do,” Howard said.
Canada beat Edin 10-6 in the afternoon before topping Brewster 7-5 in the evening at St. Jakobshalle.
Howard showed again he has no trouble adjusting to the style of his opponent. He was up for a rollicking skins-style shootout against the aggressive Swedes, then used a steady, clinical style against the efficient Scots.
“Any team out here can beat us,” Howard said. “I think they know that and they just have to get us on a bad day or (they're) on a good day. I don't think 9-0 intimidates them that much.
“They've seen that we didn't dominate out here. We're outplaying (teams) a little bit. But we're still winning on last shot a lot of times.”
Howard beat Scotland with a raise takeout on his final throw. After shaking hands, he spun around to wave to the contingent of flag-waving friends and family in the far reaches of the 9,000-seat venue, which was about one-quarter full.
Brewster displayed a feathery touch at times but Howard and teammates Wayne Middaugh, Craig Savill and Brent Laing were simply too consistent.
It has been a running theme all week.
As their 88 per cent shooting percentage suggests, the Canadians are not making many errors. They're also taking advantage when their opponents make mistakes.
“He's played at many massive events over the years and that experience counts,” Brewster said of Howard. “It counts a lot.”
Howard will have a chance to run the round-robin table Thursday with games against New Zealand and China. He has no plans to take it easy on the final day but has never been concerned about maintaining a perfect record.
“If we went through six tiebreakers, I don't care,” Howard said. “I just want to win this and it doesn't matter to me if we go undefeated or not.”
China is even with Norway and Scotland at 6-3 in second while New Zealand is tied with Denmark and Sweden at 5-4. If necessary, tiebreaker games will be played Friday.
The winner of the Page 1-versus-2 playoff between the top two seeds Saturday advances straight to Sunday's final. The loser falls into a semifinal against the winner of the three-four playoff game.
The semifinal winner plays for gold while the loser will play for the bronze medal Sunday against the loser of the three-four game.
“Canada has always sent pretty solid representatives and we were hoping we were going to be one of them as well,” Howard said. “I think we've turned out to be.
“You have to be comfortable with it. Just go out and business as usual.”
Against Sweden, Howard took control of the game with a takeout in the seventh end to score three. He added two more in the ninth end to win it.
Edin returned to skip duties Wednesday after sitting out the first four days of the competition with a back injury. He shot 79 per cent on the day.
Howard's last world title came in 2007 with Laing, Savill and Richard Hart. Middaugh joined the team prior to this season after Hart's retirement.
It has been 25 years since Howard won his first world championship as a third for his brother, Russ, who is working as a broadcaster at the event. Middaugh joined the brothers as a second on the squad that won gold in 1993 and Glenn Howard won another title as skip of Canada's 1998 entry.
Manitoba's Jeff Stoughton edged Scotland 6-5 in last year's final in Regina. It was Canada's 33rd world championship since the first event was held in 1959.
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