Canada's Howard clinches berth in Friday's playoff

Updated: April 5, 2007, 8:21 PM ET
Associated Press

EDMONTON, Alberta -- American Todd Birr beat Sweden's Peja Lindholm 6-5 on Thursday to finish second behind Canada's Glenn Howard after the round-robin portion of the World Men's Curling Championship.

Howard, from Coldwater, Ontario, beat Australia 8-3 in eight ends to improve to 9-1. Howard earned the hammer throughout the playoffs with his first-place finish and also secured a berth in the 1-vs.-2 Page playoff contest Friday night, where the winner advances directly to Sunday's gold-medal game.

Birr, from Mankato, Minn., was 8-3 in round-robin play

"I think we were a pretty solid 12th coming in," Birr said.

"We knew we were underdogs, we were below the radar and nobody knew us and that's how it should be. We weren't concerned about it. We just wanted to play our game and earn some respect."

The Americans have certainly accomplished that, handing Howard's rink its lone loss of the tournament. However, Birr has much loftier goals in mind.

"When you look back maybe down the road that might be enough but a loss is a loss and you never like to lose," Birr said.

"When you get to this point, when are you going to have a better chance to play in a world championship final."

Heading into Friday's showdown with Howard, Birr says he's not about to change the approach that has worked so well for him so far in the tournament.

"Keep it simple, pick our spots," he said. "With a team like Canada we don't want to draw with those guys for 10 ends. They're awesome at that and at some point they are going to knock you for three or four."

Howard admitted he was somewhat surprised at the success of the U.S. team.

"Only because we didn't know who they were," Howard said. "You don't expect somebody that you didn't know to come right through but they're playing well and against us they shot lights out."

Ralph Stockli of Switzerland guaranteed himself at least a spot in a tiebreaker game, if required, with a 7-4 victory over Olympic silver medallist Markku Uusipaavalniemi of Finland.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press