Matt Dunstone’s dynamic new foursome has some lofty goals: become the first Saskatchewan rink to win the Labatt Brier since Rick Folk in 1980 and qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
Dunstone, a 23-year-old out of Winnipeg, showed early glimpses that those goals are certainly attainable by winning the Prestige Hotels & Resorts Curling Classic in Vernon with an 8-6 Sunday win over Jim Cotter of Vernon.
Dunstone tossed fourth stones for Steve Laycock of Saskatoon last year. The two faced one another in Sunday’s marathon final since Laycock is third for Vernon’s Jim Cotter this year. Catlin Schneider, who played a few years as second with Cotter and John Morris, is Dunstone’s second.
All that familiarity may have had something to do with all the crowded houses in the final with both teams taking their time picking their shots.
“Holy smokes, there was a lot of rocks in play there,” said Dunstone, whose rink is based in Regina although he works in Kamloops in heating and ventilation. “I think we had at least 10 rocks in play every end almost. They took an early lead on us but we just battled away and hung in there. Jimmy gave us everything we could handle.”
It was the fourth event of the young season for Dunstone, who has Dustin Kidby at lead. They lost in the final at the Oakville Tankard in early September.
“This is exciting for us, first win as a squad, and to beat such a good team like Jimmy, that excites us obviously,” added Dunstone, employed by his all-star curling girlfriend Corryn Brown’s dad, Ken. “This is a lot of fun for us. Playing as much as we have has allowed us to get know one another on and off the ice.”
The teams exchanged deuces in the opening two ends with Cotter counting a single in three and Dunstone pocketing a pair in four. The rinks then swapped singles before Cotter scored two and Dunstone finished with two as Cotter couldn’t make a final takeout in a messy house to give Dunstone a steal of two. Dunstone, who has towering Braeden Moskowy at third, earned $5,000 and 23.495 world ranking points, while Cotter cashed in $4,000 and posted 17.230 points.
Cotter, a health care computer analyst who turns 44 in two weeks, liked what he saw in his team’s chemistry.
“We did lots of really good things,” said Cotter. “We could have played better throughout the weekend but it’s the start of the season and first time as a new team so I’m pretty happy the way it’s gone. Steve and I are working really well on the back end and the front end (Rick Sawatsky and Tyrell Griffifth) are pretty steady; they know each other so well already.”
Cotter, who took a late-game break in the foyer for warmth, was generally pleased with his rink’s play over three days.
“There were so many rocks in play: I was freezing out there,” chuckled Cotter. “Just a shot here or there and it’s a different game too. It was there to win. That’s obviously a great team, four phenomenal players. I think that was the first time they played eight ends all weekend.”
Dunstone did roll over the field of 12, opening with an 8-1, four-end victory over Tyler Klymchuk of Kamloops before grounding Brayden Carpenter of New Westminster 6-2 in five ends and ambushing Deane Horning of Castlegar 10-1 in five ends. The Regina crew stopped Klymchuk 8-2 in five ends in the semifinals, while Cotter outlasted Sean Geall of Kelowna 12-8.
Klymchuk iced Josh Barry of Vancouver 11-6, while Cotter shaded Daniel Wernzek of Langley 10-9 in the quarters.
Vernon’s Mark Longworth went 1-2 in the round-robin, falling 5-4 to Cotter.
On the women’s side, it was Alina Kovaleva of Saint-Petersburg, Russia toppling Kelsey Rocque of Edmonton 7-3 in Sunday’s final for the $7,000 top purse.
“Actually the round-robin games (3-2 record) were quite difficult for us, but today we came out with a new mood and it worked,” said Russia second Galina Arsenkina. “Yesterday was much better than in round-robin as well.”
Kuzmina said she had faith that Kovaleva would nail shot rock and count three in the final end.
“We had the situation and we needed to make it work, but we were sure in our skip who had made a lot of great heavy takeouts.”
Funded as Russia’s second national team behind Anna Sidorova, Kovaleva’s foursome will play the Calgary Autumn Gold cashspiel this week before returning to Russia.
“We will play in the China Open and our most important competition will be the European championships, where we will play against Team Sidorova in a best-of-seven,” said Arsenkina.
Rocque, who banked $5,000, took a single in the opening end with Kovaleva responding with a deuce in two. Rocque scored once in three and Kovaleva two in four.
There were 20 teams on the women’s side with the strength of field down a few points due to the Pinty’s Grand Slam Princess Auto Elite 10 event in Chatham, Ont. scheduled for the same weekend.
The Russians jolted Diane Gushaluk of New Westminster 9-1, while Rocque bounced Un-Chi Gim of Korea 5-3 in the semifinals.
The Russians brushed off 2018 Olympic bronze medalist Satsuki Fujisawa of Japan 4-3, while Rocque crushed Karla Thompson of Kamloops 8-2, Gin edged Brown 5-4 and Gushaluk iced Kristen Streifel of Regina 8-6 in the quarters. Gushaluk and Gim each took home $3,250.
Vernon’s Kim Slattery finished at 2-3, while Shaina McGiverin threw a Vernon team together late to fill the 20th spot and went 1-4.