KINGSTON, Ont. — Matt Dunstone was supposed to be Manitoba's next one.
Then he took his show on the road.
Three years ago, Dunstone took advantage of Curling Canada's import rule and hooked up with Steven Laycock of Regina, who was already gearing up for the Canadian Olympic Trials in Ottawa. A year later, with Dunstone tossing the final stones, the team won a provincial title and earned a spot in the Brier in Laycock's home town.
Despite a physical move to Kamloops, B.C., nearly two years ago, Dunstone's still going green, guiding a different Saskatchewan ensemble at the 2020 Brier. He's committed to his Regina teammates, third Braeden Moskowy, second Catlin Schneider and lead Dustin Kidby, for the four-year Olympic cycle.
But the graduate of Linden Christian School had some intriguing things to say Monday about his curling future.
"It was really hard to leave. I get goosebumps thinking about wearing the buffalo," Dunstone said after the morning draw at the Canadian men's championship.
"One day, that's definitely the goal. I can honestly say there's no way I finish my career without giving the buffalo an honest go. That's going to happen at some point. That's always been the dream, to win back home where it all started."
It's hardly ridiculous to think that might have already occurred he stayed.
Dunstone had two Canadian junior curling titles to his credit and blitzed the field at his first provincial men's championship in 2016 in Selkirk, losing on last rock to Mike McEwen. The fact he didn't crack the Page playoffs a year later in Portage, despite being the third seed, was surprising, to say the least.
It was a mere setback, many thought, for the hard-throwing tuck slider, a good-natured kid with a highly combustible competitive spirit. He'd eventually catch and, most assuredly, devour McEwen and Reid Carruthers in a curling food-chain shakeup in Manitoba.
He was passionate and could perform, routinely making big-weight, circus shots. He's had a couple of those inside Leon's Centre in the early going of the nine-day championship, which offers the prize of a berth in the world men's championship in Glasgow, Scotland, later this month.
And he dazzled at times during the bonspiel season, most notably in late October in North Bay, Ont., when he captured the first Grand Slam title of his career, the Masters, downing former Canadian, world and Olympic champion Brad Gushue of St. John's, N.L. The shot of the game came in the fifth end when Dunstone executed a phenomenal angle-raise takeout to score two and build a 6-3 advantage.
"I live for those shots. I love this game because of those moments. It's almost like a high," Dunstone said. "Luckily, I've been a part of quite a few of them, especially this year. Every time one of those happens, it's the reason I continue to play."
He was still trying to slow his heart rate after making a stunning, last-rock shot — a run-back triple takeout to score a whopping four points and post an improbable 9-8 victory over Laycock, his old partner at the T-line, who's now calling the shots for Team British Columbia.
Back-to-back head-scratching misses by Laycock's final thrower, Jim Cotter, made the grand slam possible. Not even a faint-hope clause kicked in when he began the end down 8-5.
"Not at the Brier, not anywhere really," he said, on the possibility of posting a four. "You rarely have a chance for three in that situation, so the curling gods definitely wanted us to win that game."
Moskowy, who played with Carruthers out of Manitoba for a couple of seasons, ran up against Dunstone at the Viterra in 2016 and knew exactly what he was getting from his new skip three years later.
"We actually lost to Matt in the semifinal, the year he lost to Mike in the final. What impresses you is the shot-making, obviously. He's world class and one of the greatest talents to come along in this game in a long time," said Moskowy. "I knew we'd get along off the ice, too. But I was extremely impressed his knowledge of the game, the way he sees the game, at such a young age.
"The last two years, the amount of growth he's done, maturity-wise, on the ice has been remarkable. Working with our coach, Adam Kingsbury, he's come a long way. Maybe earlier, he might get frustrated in a game like (against B.C.) and shut 'er down. But we don't see any of that, and I know he's worked hard at that."
Dunstone is, for the most part, a full-time curler. He does a bit of work with a Kamloops heating and ventilation company owned by the father of his girlfriend, curler Erin Pincott. She plays third for Corryn Brown, who recently represented B.C. at the national Scotties in Moose Jaw, Sask.
Dunstone was at Mosaic Place for much of the week as the supportive partner.
"It's hard to watch. You think every shot's makeable when you're in the stands," he said, laughing. "I've never missed one from up there. It's a pretty easy game."
Assistant sports editor
Jason Bell wanted to be a lawyer when he was a kid. The movie The Paper Chase got him hooked on the idea of law school and, possibly, falling in love with someone exactly like Lindsay Wagner (before she went all bionic).
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