Manitoba refuses to quit!

Team Manitoba skip Matt Dunstone celebrate’s his team’s win in the semifinal on Sunday afternoon in London, Ont.

Team Manitoba steals its way to Tim Hortons Brier final

All athletes suffer tough losses. It’s how they deal with it that matters.

Skip Matt Dunstone and his Team Manitoba dealt with it the only way they know how — with some grit and another exhibition of great shotmaking.

The Manitobans picked themselves off the mat after a tough loss Saturday and scored a huge 7-5 win Sunday over skip Brendan Bottcher’s Team Wild Card #1 in the semifinal of the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier, presented by AGI, in London, Ont.

Manitoba skip Matt Dunstone, left, directs his teammates as Team Wild Card #1 skip Brendan Bottcher looks on. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

The win plants the Buffalo Boys squarely where they want to be: face-to-face with skip Brad Gushue’s Team Canada from St. John’s, N.L., which delivered a devastating gut punch the night before in the Page playoffs 1-2 game before a boisterous crowd in Budweiser Gardens.

The winners will wear the Maple Leaf at the 2023 BKT Tires & OK Tire World Men’s Curling Championship in Ottawa.

“It would have been so easy for this team to go through the motions after what happened last night and give up an easy one, but we fought to the bitter end,” said Dunstone, who vowed not to let the loss Saturday night to the defending champs affect his team’s performance.

It didn’t. Team Manitoba, which includes third B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Lott, lead Ryan Harnden and coach Adam Kingsbury, from the Fort Rouge Club in Winnipeg, were as sharp and focused as they’ve been all week in rolling through the round robin undefeated.

The game was distilled down to this: Dunstone, needing a steal in the 10th, played a perfect draw to a piece of the button, guarded. It left Bottcher the button with the outturn draw, but half-way down it was clear the rock would not get there.

It touched off a joyous celebration from the Manitobans and their cheering section in the stands. 

It was the second win by Team Manitoba over Team Bottcher’s Calgary Glencoe Club outfit in three days. Manitoba won 5-3 Friday in the Page playoff seeding round.

“That was a great game and a fun one to play,” said Bottcher, who was looking for his second Canadian title. “Matt made a couple of beauties and his last one there was a real good one.

“We’re curling on Sunday at the Brier. It’s been a huge success. The guys played great and built a lot of momentum during the week. I think we brought our best these last two games.”

Team Wild Card #1 ‘s Ben Hebert, left, and Marc Kennedy sweep a rock during the semifinal. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

It was, as advertised, a tight struggle, with the usual amount of spectacular shooting from both sides. Doubles, runbacks, freezes, draws through the port; they were all there.

Two shots stood out over the first seven ends. In the sixth, Dunstone made a ridiculously tough long-range angle raise into the button to score two. One end later, Team Wild Card #1 third Marc Kennedy made a double facing four Manitoba stones, with his shooter spinning to freeze perfectly against another Team Dunstone counter at the back of the house. It was, in effect, a triple and Manitoba was forced to take one.

It could have been a game-saver.

Dunstone knows his team will be up against a man chasing history in the final. Gushue is looking to become the only man to skip a team to five Tim Hortons Brier victories.

“We played a phenomenal back half of yesterday’s game,” said Dunstone, “so we’ll try to put as much pressure as we possibly can on him.”

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