Mighty Manitoba!

Manitoba skip Matt Dunstone delivers his shot as teammates Colton Lott, left, and Ryan Harnden prepare to sweep. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team Manitoba dominant in round robin at Tim Horton Brier

Several Tim Hortons Briers have had undefeated teams after the round robin, but it’s hard to think of one that featured a foursome as dominant as skip Matt Dunstone’s Team Manitoba this year in London, Ont.

The team from the Fort Rouge Club in Winnipeg has treated the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, like its own personal piggy bank, turning it upside down and shaking out the wins. Team Dunstone completed its eight on-ice assignments Thursday afternoon, and it ended with another victory, putting a bow on a spectacular six days of curling at Budweiser Gardens. 

This one was a blowout like most of them have been, a 9-2, eight-end victory over Tanner Horgan’s Team Northern Ontario (6-2, Sudbury).

“The guys are played amazing. We’re playing well and things are going our way,” said Dunstone, whose clean slate wrapped up first place in Pool A. Dunstone, supported by third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Lott, lead Ryan Harnden, and coach Adam Kingsbury, also earned the added bonus of a first-round bye in the Page seeding round and an extra life in the playoffs.

“The event’s so long and gruelling you want the rest any time you can take it,” said Dunstone. “That was our motivation today. We knew what was on the line.” 

The Koe brothers, Jamie, left, and Kevin went head to head again Thursday at the Tim Hortons Brier. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Team Manitoba’s win did something else. It avoided a possible three-way tie for first place involving Team Northern Ontario and Team Alberta (7-1, Calgary), skipped by four-time Canadian men’s curling champion Kevin Koe. The Albertans did their part Thursday in another instalment of the Battle of the Koes. Kevin Koe faced his brother Jamie, skip of Team Northwest Territories (1-7, Yellowknife) nine previous times at the Tim Hortons Brier, and had never lost. He didn’t this time either, winning 10-6.

It was another dominant outing from Dunstone and Co. They jumped in front with two in the first end, then stole two more in the second when Horgan was heavy on a draw. Dunstone, who shot 97 per cent in the game, made a great come-around draw to bite the four in the third end, and Horgan was unable pull off an angle runback, and suddenly Team Manitoba was up 5-0.

It was just more of the same from Team Dunstone, which has outscored its opponents 80-24 to date. None of their 2023 Tim Hortons Brier assignments so far have reached the 10th end. And, almost unbelievably, they never gave up a steal.

“I really like where we’re at, making a lot of shots,” said Dunstone. “We’ll take it while we can. We’ll be prepared when a 10-end game comes.” 

Neufeld credits his skip for much of the success in London.

“He was born for this event. His passion is second-to-none for this game,” said Neufeld. “This is where he wants to be and this is where he wants to excel. I’m glad he’s my skip.” 

Team Newfoundland/Labrador skip Nathan Young, left, and teammate Sam Follett enjoy a light moment during Thursday’s win. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Two other games were on the docket in A pool play, but were basically window dressing. Skip Kelly Knapp’s Team Saskatchewan (4-4, Regina) defeated Team Wild Card #2 (4-4, Morris, Man.) skipped by Reid Carruthers.

Meanwhile, in a battle of young up-and-coming teams, Newfoundland and Labrador, skipped by Nathan Young (2-6, St. John’s, N.L.), bounced skip Matt Manuel’s Team Nova Scotia (3-5, Halifax) 8-5.

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 a draw at 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/