Defending provincial champions part of six-team event here this weekend
In a normal curling season, many of the top rinks in the country will have had a handful of major cashspiels under their belts.
For reigning provincial champion Matt Dunstone and his team from the Highland Curling Club in Regina, the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that the 2020-21 campaign has been anything but normal.
After winning the Vaderstadt Saskatchewan Super Series event in Regina on Oct. 18 over defending provincial junior champion Rylan Kleiter of Saskatoon, the Dunstone rink has been on the sidelines.
“I wouldn’t have thought in a million years that we would be in November and just now be getting ready for our second event of the season,” Dunstone said. “Usually we’re about six or seven events deep into our year by now.”
Last year’s bronze medal winners at the Tim Hortons Brier will return to action this weekend at the Prince Albert Golf and Curling Club for a six-team Saskatchewan Curling Tour event that will get underway at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Although they haven’t been able to play as much as they normally would, the foursome has kept themselves busy over the last few weeks.
“We’ve had to find different ways to simulate that game experience, but on the flip side, we’ve had more time than ever before to practice and work on some different things,” Dunstone said. “We’ve made the best of the difficult situation and made some progress as a team that way.”
That extra practice has also helped Dunstone get used to playing with his new second Kirk Muyres.
Muyres, who earned a bronze medal with Steve Laycock’s rink at the 2015 Brier and beat Dunstone in the 2019 provincial final as the skip of his own rink, joined the squad during the off-season and replaced Catlin Schneider, who is now the third for Colton Flasch’s team.
“With the amount of ice time that we’ve had here lately, it’s definitely given us the opportunity to feel like we’re ready to roll here now with Kirk on our side now,” said Dunstone, who is also joined on the team by third Braeden Moskowy and lead Dustin Kidby.
Although they only have one under their belt, the Dunstone rink is already coming to grips with the new rules and regulations that are in place due to the pandemic.
“There’s obviously no sweeping for the skips in any capacity, especially on rocks behind the tee-line,” Dunstone said. “That’s something that’s been a little bit different for me, especially as I just sit there and watch an opponent’s stone grind to a halt.
“I know some provinces are going full masks for the entire game and having just one sweeper at all times, but that’s not the case here and in a couple of other provinces at the moment. We all have to keep in mind what the rules and regulations are and that we are all keeping our distance out there during the games.”
Joining the Dunstone rink at this weekend’s event in Prince Albert are Daymond Bernath of Saskatoon, Kody Hartung of Langenburg, Shaun Meachem of Saskatoon, Cody Sutherland of North Battleford and Cole Tenetuik of Saskatoon.
After each team plays each other in the round-robin, the second and third place teams will meet up in semifinal contest on Sunday at 9:30 a.m., with the winner advancing to face the top team in the round-robin for the event title at 1 p.m.
“Avoiding a must-win situation for as long as you can is the main focus going into a format like this one,” Dunstone said. “If you drop one or two games early, that puts your backs against the wall for the rest of the event.
“We got two games on Friday (against Sutherland and Hartung) and if we take care of business there, that should put us in the driver’s seat going into the rest of the weekend.”