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Dunstone wins junior title at 12th hour

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The 12th end — one of the more unusual situations a curler can encounter — has been very good to the Dunstone family.

In the final of the junior men’s provincial championship on Jan. 7, Matt Dunstone of West Kildonan Curling Club made a draw to the button in the second extra end to score an 8-7 win over Daniel Birchard of Pembina.

It was the first time in his curling career that the 17-year-old Charleswood resident had played a 12-end game. But his grandparents, Jim and Carol, did just that in a similarly important spot.

"They won two provincial mixed and one national mixed championship," Dunstone said. "They won their national in 12 ends. When I was talking to them later that night they told me."

Even a few days after the heart-stopping victory — Dunstone wasn’t confident that his last rock was good until it came to rest — the young skip was elated to be going with his teammates, third Colton Lott, second Daniel Grant, a St. Vital resident, and lead Brendan MacCuish, to the national junior championships in Fort McMurray, Alta., from Feb. 1 to 10.

"It’s still pretty surreal," said Dunstone, a Grade 12 student at Linden Christian School. "It’s been my dream ever since I started curling. Now to know it’s finally accomplished is very satisfying."

Most curlers’ hands would have been shaking as they settled into the hack knowing only a draw to the button would be good enough for a provincial title. But Dunstone said he felt a calm come over him.

"Right when I started curling my dream was to have a chance to draw the button to win a buffalo," he said. "I think that’s what settled me down. I didn’t feel nervous, just satisfied I’d achieved what I wanted to achieve."

Coming from a curling family — his father, Dean, was a junior finalist two consecutive years — meant first throwing rocks at age three for Dunstone. The road to the provincials was a rocky one, as he lost in seven zone finals before finally qualifying last year for the first time.

Now he’s headed to Fort McMurray, representing a province that is usually a factor in national competitions.

"Obviously Manitoba always expects its team to do well," he said. "So there’s a little pressure there, but we know if we play as well as we can, we’ll do fine and represent the province well."

At 17, with three years of junior eligibility remaining, Dunstone figures to be one of the younger skips at the nationals. But that doesn’t make him any less confident about his team’s chances of earning a trip to the world juniors in Sochi, Russia.

"I’ve played against older people my whole life," he said. "Our expectation is just to represent Manitoba as best we can, and whatever happens, happens."

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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