Manitoba the class of the field
Top-ranked Team Dunstone on course for Pool A showdown with Alberta
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Matt Dunstone is proving why he’s ranked first in the country.
The 27-year-old from Winnipeg and his Team Manitoba lineup of third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Lott and lead Ryan Harnden continue to dominate this week’s Brier in London, Ont., at the Budweiser Gardens.
In a rematch of last month’s provincial final in Neepawa, the foursome out of Fort Rouge Curling Club secured an 8-4 victory Tuesday night over Wild Card No. 2’s Reid Carruthers.
The win improved Dunstone’s record at men’s curling nationals to 5-0, while the result dropped Carruthers to 2-3.
Dunstone shares the top spot in Pool A with Alberta’s Kevin Koe (6-0). Carruthers has slid down to fifth place which puts him on the ropes. Northern Ontario’s Tanner Horgan is in third at 4-1.
The top three teams from the two nine-team pools advance to Friday’s playoffs. Canada’s Brad Gushue (5-1) and Wild Card no. 1’s Brendan Bottcher (5-1) lead the pack in Pool B.
“The guys are playing great,” said Dunstone after last night’s win.
”We’re getting better each and every game. B.J. has been locked in right from the get go. He’s been quite phenomenal. And the other three of us feel like we’re getting better with each game, with each throw. We’re getting very comfortable out there, but it’s going to get a little bit tougher as we go from here.”
If Dunstone — who has scored three-plus points in more ends (eight) than any other team in London — can get past Newfoundland and Labrador’s Nathan Young (1-5) in Wednesday’s morning draw, it’ll set up an extremely important tilt with Koe at 6 p.m. CT that will likely decide who wins the pool. A first-place finish guarantees a place in Friday night’s Page playoff seeding games between the final four teams. Whoever settles for second must win a qualifying game Friday afternoon against the third-place squad from Pool B.
“It’s huge, but first things first, (Wednesday) night’s game means a little bit less if we don’t take care of business in the morning,” said Dunstone.
“So, it’d be to have a tied record with (Koe) going into tomorrow night’s game and you know it’s going to be an exciting one. Those types of games at the Brier are what you dream of and what you play for.”
Manitoba knows exactly what to expect from Koe as Neufeld spent the past four seasons curling with the four-time Brier winner. The last time Koe, 48, won the national championship was in 2019 with Neufeld at his side.
Neufeld, 37, has had to get used to different styles of skips as Koe is rather stoic on the ice, unlike Dunstone who tends to wear his heart on his sleeve.
“I think Matt and I are a nice balance for each other. I think he’ll pull some emotion out of me maybe when I need it and I think I’ll be able to ramp him down a little bit when he needs that. So, you know, opposites are sometimes a really good combination and I think that’s what Matt and I have,” said Neufeld.
“With Kevin, we were more similar and we kind of fed off of that as well and that was great. The key is, no matter what emotion you’re showing in a game, is you’re always having an open mind, you’re communicating properly, and lines are always open. You can deal with somebody being emotional or with somebody being quiet.”
Through five games, Dunstone has outscored opponents 47-17. But for Neufeld, it’s not just stats, it’s the team’s dynamic that has him feeling encouraged.
“We’re all super supportive of each other. There’s no big egos. Everybody is willing to take and give input, which is really, really nice. It’s not easy to come by that with four guys,” Neufeld said.
“Everybody has their role, everybody knows their role, and everybody is doing everything they absolutely can to be the best at their position.”
Neufeld is curling at 93 per cent which leads all third at the competition. Dunstone is the third-ranked skip at 86 per cent, trailing Gushue’s 87 per cent and Koe at 89 per cent.
“Matt’s got all the talent in the world. He’s got all the shots, he’s hungry, he wants this. We all want this. He most certainly has what it takes,” said Neufeld.
“I think once we get down to the wire here, you’re going to see a pretty special curler.”
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of...