Dunstone optimistic after Brier loss
‘We’ve solidified ourselves as one of the best teams in the world,’ says Manitoba skip after runner-up finish at national championship
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Sunday was a roller-coaster of emotions for Matt Dunstone and Team Manitoba.
The final day of the Brier in London, Ont., started with the group out of Fort Rouge Curling Club stealing a pair in the 10th end to pull off an epic 7-5 victory over Wild Card no. 1’s Brendan Bottcher in the semifinal.
A few hours later, Dunstone, third BJ Neufeld, second Colton Lott, and lead Ryan Harnden were back on the ice to challenge Team Canada’s Brad Gushue for the men’s national curling championship.
Gushue beat Dunstone in a classic Saturday night in the Page 1-2 game to advance to the final. Sunday evening was another classic, unfortunately for Dunstone, the result was the same. Manitoba was sitting two and was one miss away from winning gold, but Gushue drew the four-foot ring with his final shot to prevail 7-5.
The difference was the eighth end when Gushue, third Mark Nichols, second E.J. Harnden, and lead Geoff Walker turned the game upside down by scoring three.
“We give up three in the eighth end and I think our win percentage is anywhere from one to five per cent. And we made him throw a draw that he absolutely had to make with his last rock or we win. That wasn’t an easy draw. He made it look awfully easy but given the spot on the ice and it hadn’t been played in a bit I thought it was a pretty tricky path,” Dunstone told the Free Press on Monday.
“Honestly, I thought it was 50-50 on the last one. But obviously, they had a good feel for it and they made it look easy.”
“It’s just the way she goes. I have absolutely no regrets on how we played that final in any capacity.”
Gushue, the 42-year-old product of St. John’s, Nfld., has now won a record five Brier titles. Dunstone, a 27-year-old from Winnipeg, is left still searching for his first.
Gushue, who was appearing in his 20th Brier this year, didn’t win his first until 2017.
“In a country like Canada where curling is so good, you never know when you might have that opportunity again because if you’re not playing your best curling, you’re never going to be in that final. For me, it’s more of a motivator, just get back to business, continue to see this team grow, and get better as curlers and as people and try to get back in that position,” said Dunstone, who finished in third at the event in 2020 and 2021 while curling out of Saskatchewan.
“Regardless of age, there are absolutely no guarantees. If there were, you wouldn’t have to play the games. It’s definitely a positive way of looking at it is I’ve got Father Time on my side, but it certainly doesn’t feel that way just given the landscape of men’s Canadian curling and how good it is and how good you have to be to succeed.”
The only team Manitoba lost to all week was Gushue.
Sunday night was memorable in many ways as it marked the first time two brothers met in a Brier final. Ryan and E.J. Harnden shared an emotional hug with their father Eric after the game.
Dunstone and Neufeld were also seen with tears in their eyes after coming so close to reaching the top of the mountain. Despite not getting the ending they were hoping for, a second-place finish is an impressive result for a first-year team.
“We’ve solidified ourselves as one of the best teams in the world. We’ve played 11 or 12 events and have made seven finals,” said Dunstone. “I think we’ve all exceeded our own expectations coming into this and I’m really proud of what we went and did this last week.”
La Salle teams win Manitoba Masters
La Salle’s Laurie Deprez won Manitoba’s Master Women’s Championship on Sunday morning in Thompson with a 5-3 victory over Hamiota’s Sandra Cowling.
La Salle also claimed the men’s final Monday morning with Randy Neufeld coming away with a 4-3 win over Granite Curling Club’s Mike Mahon.
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