Manitoba’s Dunstone eliminates Wild Card 1’s Bottcher to reach Brier final

Manitoba's Matt Dunstone calls a sweep on a shot against Wild Card 1's Brendan Bottcher in the semifinal game at the 2023 Tim Hortons Brier in London, Ont., Sunday, March 12, 2023. (Frank Gunn/CP)

LONDON, Ont. — Manitoba’s Matt Dunstone earned a berth in the Tim Hortons Brier final with a 7-5 victory over Wild Card 1’s Brendan Bottcher on Sunday afternoon at Budweiser Gardens.

Dunstone put the pressure on in the 10th end, drawing around two stones to sit on the side of the button. Bottcher’s draw on the other side was light, giving Manitoba a steal of two and the semifinal victory.

“We made what we had to down the stretch,” Dunstone said. “We got a bit of a break there and we’re off to the final.”

Dunstone’s team made eight ideal shots in the final end. Bottcher had a tight line with his final rock and it wasn’t close to reaching the button.

“It was just a tough shot that was missed,” Bottcher said. “All the credit to Matt. He put his last one in the perfect spot.”

Manitoba will play defending champion Brad Gushue in the final Sunday night.

Gushue earned a direct berth to the championship game with a 5-4 victory over Dunstone in the Page 1-2 game on Saturday night. The St. John’s, N.L., skip stole a point in the 10th end to hand Dunstone his only loss of the competition.

The result dropped Dunstone into the semifinal against a Wild Card 1 side that beat Ontario’s Mike McEwen 6-3 in the Page 3-4 game.

Dunstone was in form early with a soft tap for two that staked his team to the lead in the second end. Bottcher replied with a pair of his own and stole a single in the fourth when Dunstone’s tap attempt was wide.

Manitoba had the potential for a big end in the seventh but Wild Card 1 third Marc Kennedy made a double-takeout freeze to snuff the threat. Dunstone missed a double of his own and settled for a force that tied the game at five.

Bottcher made a double-takeout for the blank in the ninth end to keep hammer coming home.

Dunstone, vice B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Lott and lead Ryan Harnden threw 91 per cent. Bottcher, Kennedy, second Brett Gallant and lead Ben Hebert were just behind at 89 per cent.

“We’re gritty. We’re tenacious. We’re never out of it,” said Dunstone, who’s looking for his first Brier title. “This is just a wonderful team that never gives up.”

Gushue’s St. John’s, N.L.-based team has won four Brier titles over the last six years. He beat Kevin Koe in last year’s final in Lethbridge, Alta.

This year’s Brier champion will represent Canada at the April 1-9 world men’s curling championship in Ottawa.

Dunstone is the current leader in the Canadian men’s team rankings. Bottcher is just behind in second place and Gushue is third.

The Brier champions will earn $108,000 of the $300,000 total purse. The finalists get $60,000 and the third-place team will pick up $40,000.

Announced attendance for the semifinal was 5,730 to bring the overall total to 88,776. The venue seats 9,090 for curling.

Kerri Einarson won the Canadian women’s curling championship last month in Kamloops, B.C.

Her Manitoba-based team will wear the Maple Leaf at the March 18-26 world women’s curling championship in Sandviken, Sweden.

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