VICTORIA — Matt Dunstone learned quickly in his young curling career there isn’t any rest for the best.
Fresh off of skipping Team Canada to a bronze medal at the world juniors this past Sunday in Denmark, Dunstone returned home to Winnipeg for roughly 48 hours before jetting out to Victoria to spare at third on Charley Thomas’s team at the Elite 10.
Now that the 20-year-old Dunstone has closed the chapter on his junior career, he’s ready to write a new page among the pros.
“Hopefully it’ll become more normal for me in the upcoming years,” he said. “It was a good junior career, kind of happy it’s over, and I learned a lot from it. This is what I dreamed of growing up so getting to playing in these is awesome.”
If Dunstone was feeling jet-lagged at all, he wasn't showing it as he was pretty pumped to play in the Pinty's Grand Slam of Curling tournament.
"I’m still adjusting here and now on a nine-hour time change from Denmark compared to seven," he said with a smile. "I’ve adjusted okay. I’m getting six hours of sleep so we’ve got a lot of work to do."
It's been a transitional year for Dunstone and his team featuring third Colton Lott, second Kyle Doering, and lead Robbie Gordon. The foursome competed against the men's field in four World Curling Tour events while also balancing their junior season.
Dunstone played the "super spare" role once already this season making his Pinty's GSOC series debut at the Meridian Canadian Open in December subbing for second Carter Rycroft on Pat Simmons's team. Dunstone said it was a super-cool experience to play alongside the multiple-time Brier champions.
"What better three guys to play your first Slam in?" he said. "They’re all three very down-to-earth guys and they were patient with me and helped ease me into this experience so it’s nice."
What followed was a rollercoaster ride to kick off 2016. On top of winning the Canadian junior title in January, Dunstone made it all the way to the final of the Viterra Championship, the Manitoba men's provincial curling tournament, just a couple weeks later. Both events saw Dunstone pull off some spectacular, highlight reel-worthy shots with the runback becoming his signature sick move.
Dunstone scored an upset victory in the Manitoba semifinal over then defending champion Reid Carruthers, who has mentored Dunstone over the years and had nothing but praise for his protege.
"I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more of the guy," Carruthers said. "Matty is a great shooter, a great guy and he’s got a heart of gold. I definitely cheer for him. Unfortunately I think I was cheering a little too much for him when we were playing him in the provincials in the semifinal, but at the same time he makes me proud. He’s just a great guy through and through."
Mike McEwen came out on top in the Manitoba final and the six-time Pinty's GSOC champion said it was unbelievable how Dunstone's team played.
"I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a better junior team ever," McEwen said. "That streak -- that run that they played through the Canadian juniors and then into our men’s provincials -- the curling that they were putting out there was capable of beating just about anybody. Never mind anybody in Manitoba, anyone almost anywhere. They were throwing up really high numbers.
"I was very impressed with how they played, their demeanour, their respect, and how they carry themselves. I think they’re way ahead of their time already."
McEwen also believes Dunstone will do well in the Elite 10, which features match play where teams attempt to win the most ends per game by either scoring two or more points with the hammer or by stealing at least one without the hammer. The format has seen teams attempt more tricky shots, including some ridiculous runbacks, that seem to be right up Dunstone's alley.
"I think he’s perfect for this event," McEwen said. "He’s going to get to throw a lot of difficult precision shots. I think he’ll perform well in this."
Dunstone is looking forward to showing off his arsenal if the time is right.
"Hopefully we’re not in any sort of trouble to begin with, but if need be I’ll be around to make them for sure," he said. "I’m excited for it."