NORTH BAY, Ont. — Matt Dunstone dropped to his knees and cried tears of joy after winning his first career Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling men’s title at the Masters.
Dunstone and his Regina-based club took down 11-time champions Team Brad Gushue of St. John’s, N.L., 8-5 in Sunday’s final at Memorial Gardens.
Dunstone, third Braeden Moskowy, second Catlin Schneider and lead Dustin Kidby collected $35,000 from the $300,000 total purse, 12 Pinty’s Cup points plus a spot in the season-ending Humpty’s Champions Cup.
The 24-year-old Dunstone rattled off the list of Grand Slam legends like Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Jeff Stoughton, Wayne Middaugh and Mike McEwen and was left speechless knowing his name was now next to theirs.
“You grow up watching K-Mart, Glenn, McEwen, Stoughty, Middaugh, all those guys just dominate these things and just to play in them let alone do this and be a part of those guys in history, no words,” an emotional Dunstone said after the game. “It’s a dream.”
Of the foursome, only Moskowy had even competed in a Grand Slam final previously when he played with Team Carruthers winning the inaugural Humpty’s Champions Cup in 2016.
“Man, it’s an unreal feeling,” Moskowy said. “When we put this team together (in 2018), we talked about aspirations of winning a Brier, winning a worlds, winning Grand Slams. At times it seems pretty far away, so when you have a week like this and all of the hard work pays off, we’ve been putting in a lot of time with it to start this year, it’s just an unreal feeling. …
“I maybe took it for granted a little bit with the first one and didn’t realize how hard it is. They’re the toughest events in the world to win. They’re the best events in the world to play in. Any time you can win one or go deep in one it’s an unbelievable feeling. I’m just so happy for these guys, they played so good and to get the first one is awesome and hopefully, it’s the first of many.”
Sunday’s crowd leaned towards Gushue’s corner with chants of “Let’s go, Gu-shue,” “You can do it, Brad,” and “Go Gush,” throughout the match. Dunstone had to let his play do all the talking to win them over as it had all week with highlight-reel beauties.
Team Dunstone powered through arguably the toughest round-robin pool featuring past Grand Slam champions and picked up wins over Gushue, Team McEwen and Team Bottcher with their lone loss against reigning world champions Team Edin. Dunstone knocked off Northern Ontario favourites Team Jacobs in the quarterfinals and previously undefeated Team Mouat during the semis.
“From head to toe, lead to skip, we were feeling it right from the get-go,” Dunstone said. “There was just a calming, strangely relaxed (feeling) right from the beginning of the event and we just carried that through.
“We just found a way to stick in our routine no matter how many highs, lows, whatever it was we went through, we just found a way to stick with it. The guys played great in front of me today. I didn’t have my best game today and the guys stuck it out.”
Dunstone started with the hammer but was forced to settle for a single in the opening frame.
Gushue went to work in the second to score a deuce and take the lead, however, a hit and roll in the third went the wrong way with his shooter going out and Dunstone’s rock jamming. That allowed Dunstone the opportunity to draw for three and leap back ahead 4-2.
Dunstone made an absolute peach of a draw to the button to sit two in the fourth and murmurs spread among the jam-packed house as to what Gushue would do. The 2006 Olympic gold medallist tried to make the double but couldn’t push both rocks far enough and only counted a single.
The shot of the game came in the fifth end with Dunstone firing an amazing angle raise takeout to score two and build a 6-3 advantage.
“In these events, things have got to go your way,” Dunstone said. “I mean, how many times do I throw that and not get that result out of that, right? Things were kind of meant to be in that sense and in those sorts of shots, any opportune shot for big points just went our way this week.”
Moskowy added: “The guy was just unbelievable all week. Anything he saw, anything he look at, it was pretty hard to say no to any shot he looked at. He had a damn good feeling he was going to make anything he threw. He was in groove unlike anyone I’ve ever played with or I’ve ever really seen before. He’s an unbelievably talented kid. I’m just so happy that he’s on my team, that’s for sure.”
Gushue attempted to beat Dunstone at his own game eyeing up an in-off triple to possibly score four in the sixth, however, he didn’t have enough power to remove all three rocks and only counted a couple of points.
“Were we close to giving up eight there almost? I didn’t see many reds in the corner,” Dunstone jokingly said. “I think we got a little bit fortunate with mine freezing to the back one but just throughout the game, Brad had that double in the fourth and who knows how many he would have gotten in the sixth. We were just a little bit fortunate that Brad wasn’t making those ones today.”
After Dunstone tacked on a single in seven, Gushue needed to score a deuce in eight to force an extra end but flashed his first skip stone and misfired the runback on his last to bring out handshakes.
Earlier Sunday, Tracy Fleury also captured her first career Grand Slam title as her East St. Paul, Man., team beat Japan’s Team Sayaka Yoshimura 7-5.
The Masters was the first of six Pinty’s Grand Slam of Curling events on the 2019-20 schedule with the KIOTI Tractor Tour Challenge on deck taking place Nov. 5-10 in Pictou County, N.S.