Brad Gushue (Photo: Michael Burns) defeated Matt Dunstone and Team Manitoba 5-4 in the 1v2 page playoff game at the 2023 Brier in London on Saturday night, to advance to Sunday's championship final.
By: Dylan Chenier
Brad Gushue and Team Canada are one win away from defending their national championship after the rink secured a thrilling 5-4 victory over Matt Dunstone and Team Manitoba in the 1v2 page-playoff game at the Tim Horton's Brier in London on Saturday night.
Facing two Team Canada stones on his last shot in the first end, Gushue forced Dunstone to make a draw to the forefoot to score one to open the game. Manitoba would then return the favour in the second end, forcing Gushue to settle for one, with Team Dunstone reclaiming the hammer going into the third end.
Manitoba would secure the first deuce of the game in three with Dunstone making an impressive runback for two, putting his rink ahead 3-1. Gushue then answered right back in the fourth end with a hit for two, marking the first deuce Manitoba has given up in three games.
With his final shot in the fifth end, Dunstone was forced to draw against two Team Canada stones, with the Manitoba skip making the shot to take a 4-3 lead heading into the break. The forces would continue after the break with Gushue making a draw to the button on his last shot in the sixth, tying things up at four-apiece.
Three consecutive blanks by Dunstone set up a thrilling conclusion to the game in the tenth end, with the skip attempting a rare hit off of his own stone to sit one and win the game. Unfortunately, his shot would roll just off the button, allowing Gushue to steal one and the win.
"It was quite a battle, wow," remarked Gushue after the game. "To steal in the last end, we got Matt with a really difficult shot, he couldn't roll anywhere."
With the victory, Team Gushue is now one win away from defending their Brier title, with the rink receiving a bye into Sunday night's championship final. "We will celebrate this one tonight, but as soon as we wake up tomorrow, [we've] got to shift gears and get ready for [the final]. [We'll] make sure we have a good practice tomorrow because we don't know what rocks are going to be thrown at this point," Gushue said about what his team will do to prepare for tomorrow's final.
The victory tonight means Gushue and Team Canada will have the hammer in the gold medal game, while also avoiding a must-win Sunday afternoon semifinal, both of which the skip said should benefit his rink.
"I think the rest is important, [but] I think more so the hammer is important. We couldn't wrestle that away from Matt in that game... if we come up against them... we can control the game at the start and get a lead. I think it improves our odds of winning dramatically."
If Gushue wins tomorrow night, it would mark the skip's fourth Brier title since winning his first nationals at home in St. John's in 2017.
Meanwhile, Saturday's loss marks the first defeat of the 2023 Brier tournament for Matt Dunstone and Team Manitoba, with the rink now dropping to the semifinal on Sunday afternoon against Brendan Bottcher and Wild Card 1. Despite a hard-fought battle resulting in a disappointing defeat for the young skip, Dunstone seemed positive as he spoke to reporters after the game.
"What happened tonight, I expected nothing less... we've just got to come out and bring our A-game tomorrow. [Tonight], we played great against one of the best teams in the world and control the whole game."
The Winnipeg native is no stranger to Brier semifinals, having lost two straight games in 2020 and 2021, with the skip still searching for his first men's national championship. On Sunday, Dunstone will face 2021 Brier champion Brendan Bottcher, whose Wild Card 1 rink defeated Mike McEwen and Team Ontario in Saturday's 3v4 game to advance to the semis.
The 2023 Brier semifinal match is set for 12:00 p.m. ET inside London's Budweiser Gardens.
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