Brad Gushue and his Newfoundland and Labrador teammates were feeling so confident with draw weight, they were comfortable giving up a game-tying deuce just to have hammer coming home.
The decision paid off when Gushue drew for a single point and a 7-6 victory over Saskatchewan’s Matt Dunstone in Sunday’s semifinal at the Tim Hortons Brier.
“I think in the last probably five or six years, where I feel I’m the best drawer in the world, that if I can have the four-foot I’m going to make it,” Gushue said.
The result moved him into the championship game Sunday night against Alberta’s Brendan Bottcher. It’s a rematch of the Brier final from 2018, when Gushue won his second straight national crown.
Bottcher, who has lost just once at the Leon’s Centre, is making his third straight appearance in the Brier final. He fell to Kevin Koe last year.
Gushue said he wasn’t against blanking the ninth end and taking his chances with preventing a three-point end in the 10th. But he felt the team would rather be tied and have control with last shot.
Under the five-rock rule, the percentages are about the same either way.
“It’s a feel decision,” Gushue said. “Sometimes it’s just how the game is going, how the ice is, and how you’re feeling from a draw weight perspective.”
Dunstone, who lost the 1-2 Page game to Bottcher on Saturday, threw his first stone of the 10th to the edge of the eight-foot under cover. The skips made freezes before Gushue threw the game winner to the delight of the packed house at the Leon’s Centre.
“It’s tough. You come so close,” Dunstone said, fighting back tears. “We woke up this morning thinking we were going to be Brier champions.”
The two-time Canadian junior champion made his Brier debut two years ago as vice-skip for Steve Laycock’s Saskatchewan rink.
The province’s last Brier title came in 1980 when Rick Folk beat Northern Ontario’s Al Hackner.
“They’re going to have lots and lots of chances to win one of these,” Gushue said of the 24-year-old Dunstone. “There’s no doubt in my mind that he is going to win one and probably multiple (titles) over the course of his career.
“He’s that good. So hopefully he keeps his head up high.”
Dunstone started the game with hammer but settled for a single when his draw for two hung wide. Gushue hit a tap for three in the second end but Dunstone pulled even with a deuce in the third.
“I look back at those first couple ends and it just would have been nice to get a force on the board somewhere,” Dunstone said. “Overall they were the more precise team out there.”
Dunstone played a hit in the sixth end rather than a double-takeout for a blank. The single cut Gushue’s lead to 5-4.
Both thirds made unforced errors in the seventh. Saskatchewan’s Braeden Moskowy nearly flashed a stone while counterpart Mark Nichols had his hit roll out to set up a blank.
After Newfoundland and Labrador was forced to one, Saskatchewan made three mistakes in the ninth end. Second Catlin Schneider missed a double and Moskowy couldn’t get two hit-and-roll attempts to stay.
Dunstone made a game-saving double to sit one and avoided a jam for the deuce to pull even.
The Brier champion will represent Canada at the March 28-April 5 world men’s curling championship in Glasgow, Scotland.
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