Buffalo Boys rejoice!

Team Manitoba skip Matt Dunstone takes aim during his team’s win Wednesday night over Alberta. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team Manitoba wins battle of unbeaten teams at Tim Hortons Brier

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

Something’s gotta give, right?

And it did, finally, when Team Manitoba defeated Team Alberta Wednesday night at the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ont.

It was a clash of undefeated 6-0 outfits in Pool A, but it wasn’t a classic simply because Alberta skip Kevin Koe just wasn’t himself on this night. The king of the big shot just couldn’t manufacture any magic.

Team Manitoba skip Matt Dunstone was more than happy to get Koe on an off-day, which helped his crew from the Fort Rouge Club in Winnipeg win 9-5 and improve to a perfect 7-0 in the nine-team round-robin Pool A standings. 

While there is still a full day of round-robin action left to play, Team Dunstone’s victory gives his team — third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Lott, lead Ryan Harnden and coach Adam Kingsbury — a leg up on the field as the combatants sort themselves out in the race to the weekend where the top three teams in each pool advance to the playoffs.

The win, however, doesn’t guarantee the Buffalo Boys first place and a bye in the first round of the Page seeding round, and a second life in the playoffs. There’s still some juicy games to complete Thursday.

Team Alberta fell to 6-1 but had already secured a place in the playoffs and can still finish first.

Team Ontario skip Mike McEwen stayed in the playoff hunt with a victory on Wednesday night. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Dunstone admitted Koe may have been “a little bit” off, but credited his own team for leaving him tough shots.

“We put a ton of pressure on them so that’s what you have to do against good teams,” said Dunstone. “After the second end I thought we dominated the entire game. We had a really good handle on the ice and put rocks in great spots.”

Team Manitoba got the early jump with a steal of two in the first end when Koe slipped too far with the hammer facing two, but the Albertans came roaring back with four in the second when Dunstone clipped a guard looking to freeze against three.

Then it was game on. After exchanging singles, Team Manitoba shot right back into the lead when Koe was hot on a draw to split the rings in the fifth, allowing Dunstone to hit for three.

Then came the seventh when Koe had a chance for a double for a possible three but missed on the thin side, leaving Team Manitoba another steal.

Koe also failed to pull off a light-weight  double in the eighth end, giving up another steal.

It was that kind of night for the four-time Canadian men’s curling champion, who had a chance to wrap up first place in the pool.

“If I make my two draws it saves us three, four, five points,” said Koe. “That was the big difference.

“We’re in the playoffs, so we can still win it. The first job is to get there and hope you get hot.”

It was an important evening draw for other teams, too. Team Ontario, skipped by Mike McEwen (5-2, Toronto), held on to defeat Jacque Gauthier’s Team British Columbia (2-5, Victoria) 10-6 to improve his playoff hopes in Pool B. It was a big two-win day for the de facto ‘home’ team in the playoffs.

Team Wild Card #2 (4-3, Morris, Man.), skipped by Reid Carruthers, also stayed on life support with a desperate 8-4 win over Jake Higgs’ Team Nunavut (1-6, Iqaluit).

Team B.C. skip Jacques Gauthier shows his disappointment after a missed shot. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

In another Pool B game, Scott Jones’ Team New Brunswick (1-6, Moncton) celebrated its first win, a 9-7 decision over Team Yukon (2-5, Whitehorse, 2-5) skipped by Thomas Scoffin.

The final three draws Thursday offer some interesting matchups. Big among them will be the clash between Northern Ontario’s Team Tanner Horgan (5-1, Sudbury) and Matthew Manuel’s Team Nova Scotia (3-3, Halifax). Team Horgan then faces Team Manitoba in the afternoon draw that may have huge implications.

The final goes Sunday, March 12.

The Tim Hortons Brier champion will wear the Maple Leaf at the 2023 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship, April 1-9 in Ottawa.

The 2023 Tim Hortons Brier continues Thursday with draws at 9 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. (all times ET).

Live scoring, standings and statistics for the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier are available at curling.ca/scoreboard.

TSN and RDS2 will provide complete coverage of the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier. CLICK HERE for the complete schedule.

For ticket information for the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier, go to www.curling.ca/2023brier/tickets/

This story will be available in French as soon as possible at www.curling.ca/2023brier/nouvelles/?lang=fr