There’s not much that rattles Reid Carruthers, but holding onto a $50,000 cheque — even if no bank on the planet would cash it — was something awfully special.
Carruthers’ first-year lineup from Morris, Man., — put together another masterful performance Sunday afternoon at Willie O’Ree Place, beating Winnipeg’s Team Matt Dunstone 8-4 in the men’s final of the 2022 PointsBet Invitational.
With the win, Carruthers, vice-skip Jason Gunnlaugson, second Derek Samagalski and lead Connor Njegovan picked up their first event win of the 2022-23 season. Winning Sunday’s final was worth $24,000, which piled on nicely to the $26,000 won earlier in the event to make a nice round $50K payout.
Carruthers was hard-pressed to think of a bigger payday for a team he’s played on.
“Other than maybe (winning) the (2011) Brier with Jeff (Stoughton)? But a paycheque in a cash bonspiel? Uh-uh,” said Carruthers with a laugh. “I don’t think I have (held that big of a cheque). It’s unreal. New (Olympic) quad, new team, and we win our third ’spiel (playing together), and to beat some of the best teams, and our provincial rival, a great team in Dunstone — oh, yeah, that’s a confidence booster.”
The teams swapped single points in the first and third ends, but Carruthers — who’d exorcised some demons a day earlier by beating Team Brad Gushue in the semifinal after 22 straight losses over the past seven years — took control by hitting for deuces in the fourth and sixth ends, and forcing Dunstone to a single in the fifth.
Dunstone, though, had something brewing in the seventh end and settled into the hack for his final throw needing to execute a back-ring-weight tap to remove a partially buried Team Carruthers stone and score a game-tying three.
Dunstone, though, would come up light and wreck on the guard, allowing Team Carruthers to steal and essentially put the win in the bank.
“They played really well, especially in the first half. The back half, I thought we definitely cleaned ’er up a little bit, and we had the clear opportunity in seven,” said Dunstone, who along with vice-skip B.J. Neufeld, second Colton Lott and lead Ryan Harnden went home with $26,000. “I let the guys down today with that shot. That sucks. The guys gave me nothing but opportunities today and I couldn’t capitalize on them. Just threw it a little light — you can’t do that out there. Just a bad throw.”
Dunstone would grab a deuce back in the eighth end, but in the ninth, Carruthers executed a wonderfully precise split/tap (delightfully described as a “tickle-bang” by Gunnlaugson) to score two and prompt a concession from Team Dunstone.
Not that anyone questioned the talent level and abilities of Team Carruthers, but, suggested Gunnlaugson, winning events is always validating will boost the confidence level for the remainder of the season.
“We’ve been pretty good this whole trip, and this is an amazing cap of a three-week stretch for us,” said Gunnlaugson. “We’re having a lot of fun; Reid is probably one of the best leaders of a team on the ice; he has us doing the right things. We’re going to get there, I think.”
And while in the moment, the loss was still stinging, Dunstone, too, saw plenty of reason to be optimistic about his team’s progression early in the new season.
We played well; we’re continuing to grow and get better as a team,” he said. “I mean it’s September at the beginning of a four year cycle. You get in these moments and these games, and it’s tough to remember that sometimes in the heat of the moment. But that’s where we’re at. Very promising things for this team — the trajectory we’re on is very good.”
Earlier Sunday, Team Jennifer Jones (Winnipeg/Altona, Man.) won the women’s title in the inaugural PointsBet Invitational, defeating Team Casey Scheidegger (Lethbridge, Alta.) 7-4.