Manitoba’s Dunstone tops Alberta’s Koe to remain unbeaten at Tim Hortons Brier

By Gregory Strong

LONDON, Ont. – The favourites are in great shape at the Canadian men’s curling championship. The real battles were building around the playoff cutlines as the last few round-robin draws approached.

Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone (7-0) moved into sole possession of first place in Pool A at the Tim Hortons Brier with a 9-5 win over Alberta’s Kevin Koe (6-1) in a Wednesday night showdown at Budweiser Gardens.

“After the second end, I thought we dominated the entire game,” Dunstone said. “We just had a really good handle on the ice and put the rock in great spots.”

Koe gave up an opening steal of two but rebounded with a four-ender. However, he struggled from there and shot a team-low 65 per cent.

“Just a little off on weight and line and they made us pay,” he said.

Northern Ontario’s Tanner Horgan (5-1) was in good position to make the three-team Pool A cut but Reid Carruthers (4-3) won twice to stay alive and Nova Scotia’s Matthew Manuel (3-3) was also in the mix.

The top two seeds also sat 1-2 in Pool B. Wild Card 1’s Brendan Bottcher (6-1) and Canada’s Brad Gushue (5-1) were ahead of Ontario’s Mike McEwen (5-2), Quebec’s Felix Asselin (4-2) and Wild Card 3’s Karsten Sturmay (3-3).

Asselin needed an extra end to get by B.C.’s Jacques Gauthier 7-6. McEwen capped a two-win day with a 10-6 win over B.C. after beating New Brunswick’s Scott Jones 11-4.

“We made some big shots when we needed to,” McEwen said.

Carruthers delivered a 6-2 victory over Manuel and then doubled Nunavut’s Jake Higgs 8-4.

“There’s a lot of first-timers here and a lot of those middle-tier teams that are grinding and fighting against each other,” Manuel said. “It’s a coin flip for a lot of the games going out there.”

Sturmay, meanwhile, picked up a 9-4 win over Prince Edward Island’s Tyler Smith.

“We were positioning our draws well, we were applying pressure and making them have to make the tough shots,” Sturmay said. “I think if we continue that moving forward, we have a good chance.”

Round-robin play wraps up Thursday with three draws. If tiebreakers are required, they would be played Friday morning.

Horgan dumped Saskatchewan’s Kelly Knapp 9-3 in the morning to put the pressure on Manuel and Carruthers in their matchup. Carruthers scored the lone deuce in the sixth end and managed to avoid the dreaded four-loss mark.

“We could win out and we still may not be in,” he said. “Unfortunately, with the losses that have piled up we’re going to need some help to have a chance.”

Bottcher moved ahead of Gushue with a 10-6 win over Yukon’s Thomas Scoffin. Dunstone dumped Nathan Young of Newfoundland and Labrador 13-3 earlier in the day.

Jamie Koe of the Northwest Territories earned his first victory of the competition with a 9-3 win over Nunavut. And New Brunswick also got on the board with a 9-7 win over Yukon in an extra end.

If there’s a tie in the pool standings at the end of round-robin play, head-to-head results will be the first tiebreaker. If more than two teams are tied, win/loss records in games between those rinks will be used.

The next tiebreaker would be accumulated draw shot distance. Last stone draw stats would also be used to seed teams if there’s a three-way tie for first place in Pool A.

Page playoff qualifiers were set for Friday afternoon ahead of the seeding games in the evening. The Page playoffs were scheduled for Saturday and the semifinal and final will be played Sunday.

The winning team will represent Canada at the April 1-9 world men’s curling championship in Ottawa.