Cousins square off, as Dunstone falls to 0-3 at Olympic curling trials
"I hope they get a few wins and get this place roaring a little bit. That would be good to see."
It wasn’t exactly a family feud, even as Ben Hebert and Dustin Kidby duelled with curling stones Monday afternoon at SaskTel Centre.
They’re cousins, friends and former junior teammates. Hebert — playing lead with Kevin Koe at this week’s Tim Hortons Canadian Olympic curling trials — didn’t particularly enjoy the 10-3 thrashing his team hung on Kidby (also a lead) and skip Matt Dunstone.
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Nor did he relish Dunstone’s 0-3 start, which comes after longtime third Braeden Moskowy pulled out for personal reasons on the eve of the trials. The Dunstone foursome, based out of Regina, is the only Saskatchewan team at the event, and the home-crowd favourite.
“I feel sorry for them,” Hebert said after his own team improved to 2-1.
“They’re in a tough position, losing one of the best thirds in our country. It’s tough for those guys; the crowd wants to get behind them, but they’ve been struggling a little out of the gates. My cousin’s on that team. Those are some good buddies of mine. I want to see them do well — not too well against me — but I hope they get a few wins and get this place roaring a little bit. That would be good to see.”
Also: Hebert did not enjoy intersecting with his cousin at a big event like the trials.
“I hate it,” he said. “I played juniors with him for eight years. He’s a great player, and you always cheer for your family when you’re not playing against him. It sucks that I have to play him here, but we’re different teams. He’s beaten me lots; I’ve beat him lots. It’s the way the business works, but I don’t enjoy that.”
It’s been the worst of all possible starts for Dunstone, who lost 7-2 to Mike McEwen and 7-6 to Brad Jacobs before the Monday setback dropped them to 0-3.
Teams spent the better part of four years building for these trials, Olympic rings dancing in their heads, so this is by no means a relaxed, easy-going event.
Days are melting away, the trials getting older, stubble thickening, blood pressure rising. Teams will play themselves in and out of contention. The Olympics will get closer, or farther away, or disappear altogether.
Dunstone’s team is in a tough and sticky spot. They need to beat everybody they meet the rest of the week: John Epping, Brad Gushue, Brendan Bottcher, Tanner Horgan, Jason Gunnlaugson.
“We’re real close,” Kidby said, echoing similar sentiments offered by his teammates in the wake of the loss.
“It seems there’s a shot here and there that’s leading us down the wrong path, but by no means are we out of it. Three losses … you need more than that to be out of it. We can definitely pull some wins together here, and hopefully get back into it.”
Dunstone, equally hopeful, talked about missed opportunities and bad luck; about how things have to get better, because he thinks the three players in front of him are shooting well.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “5-3 is going to get you something really good in this field.”
Gushue and Jacobs are both 3-0, and Mike McEwen 2-0 heading into Tuesday. Dunstone and Bottcher are 0-3 and trying to get back into the race.
Dunstone is back on ice Tuesday at 2 p.m. against Epping, while Koe’s team gets a day off to rest and reset.
Hebert, with Dunstone off his pending schedule, can now resume rooting for Saskatchewan’s lone entry.
“I wished (Kidby) all the best at the end of the game; told him to hang in there, it’s a long week,” said Hebert, who grew up in Regina and now plays out of Calgary. “They’re off to a little bit of a slow start, but I want to see the crowd rock for them and get a couple of wins. That’s what I’m hoping for.”