WINNIPEG - Tucked away in a corner of the Heather Curling Club while Mike McEwen did a massive media scrum was Dean Dunstone, the fourth seed at next week’s Safeway Championship.
He might as well be the 400th seed, because not a lot of people will be giving Dunstone, who throws fourth stones for Pembina’s Peter Nicholls rink, much of a chance at next week’s Manitoba men’s curling championship in Beausejour.
Even Dunstone admitted that it’s now the Big 2 in Manitoba, with McEwen, the top seed who is winning everything on the World Curling Tour, and Charleswood’s Jeff Stoughton, the eight-time provincial champ, representing the cream of the crop.
Brandon’s Rob Fowler, who was announced as the No. 3 seed on Thursday, is playing well enough to be mentioned in the same breath as the Big 2, but Dunstone doesn’t think he’s quite there yet.
“I’d like to think it’s the Big 4, but I have to give it the Big 2 right now,” Dunstone said. “Until we prove otherwise, right now it’s the Big 2.
“They’re the travelling teams, they’re the professional teams, and we’re kind of the local guys that try to compete with those guys.”
It used to be the Big 3 of Stoughton, Kerry Burtnyk and Vic Peters, but a changing of the guard is complete.
Burtnyk has moved on to seniors, and Peters will be the fifth seed next week.
Regardless, Dunstone will still need a lot to go right for his squad at the Sun Gro Centre if they’re going to represent Manitoba at the Brier in London, Ont.
“We have the ability to beat these guys, which keeps us playing,” Dunstone said of the teams seeded ahead of his. “Certainly out of 10 times they’re probably going to beat us most of the time, but we can beat them for sure.
“I know they know that, and what we want to do is just put on a good show, get on a streak and see them in a one-game showdown.”
Stoughton lead Steve Gould said the story remains the same for his rink, even if it is the No. 2 seed. They have to worry about beating McEwen, which they haven’t done much of this year, and they have to worry about everyone else who is gunning for them — most notably Fowler, a teammate the past four seasons.
“Robbie Fowler’s team is extremely good,” Gould said. “What happens now is all the other teams get tired of hearing now about Stoughton-McEwen, Stoughton-McEwen, just how everyone used to get tired of Stoughton-Peters-Burtnyk.
“We’ve played with that target on our backs for a lot of years, and we sense it in the dressing room. We sense it at luncheons, dinners, whatever. I think the other teams are more motivated to beat us, and people should keep a close eye on Rob Fowler. I know we definitely are.”
The top 10, as voted by the teams, for next week’s Safeway Championship in Beausejour:
1. Mike McEwen, Assiniboine
2. Jeff Stoughton, Charleswood
3. Rob Fowler, Brandon
4. Peter Nicholls, Pembina
5. Vic Peters, Fort Garry
6. David Bohn, Assiniboine
7. William Lyburn, Deer Lodge
8. Terry McNamee, Hamiota
9. Sean Grassie, Deer Lodge
10. Dave Elias, West Kildonan