CORNWALL — It’s been eight years since Michael Gaudet has skipped a provincial curling team into the national championships.
But following a brilliant performance at the P.E.I. Tankard championship held in Cornwall this weekend, the 39-year-old has again won the chance to represent the Island at the Tim Hortons Brier.
This year’s Brier takes place in Saskatoon from March 3 to 11.
Gaudet’s rink defeated 21-year-old Brett Gallant’s rink 7-5 in what was an intense Tankard final Monday night.
“It’s a little unexpected,” Gaudet admitted after the match. “Going into the year, our goal was to obviously win this year, but when you finally play good enough and it comes true . . . it’s just hard to take in right now.”
His rink of third Tyler MacKenzie, second Tyler Harris, and lead Sean Clarey play out of the Charlottetown Curling Club.
“We gelled together well all year, I found,” Gaudet told The Guardian. “We get along great and the guys . . . they played great in front of me. So it makes my job a lot easier.”
Gaudet represented Prince Edward Island at the Brier last year as a third in Eddie MacKenzie’s rink. Alex MacFadyen was the lead.
Monday night, Gaudet, the older brother of women’s curler Suzanne Birt, beat both MacKenzie and MacFayden, who now play with Gallant’s rink. Anson Carmody, the younger brother of local curling star Erin Carmody, served as Gallant’s second.
“I just want to play our best,” Gaudet said of his expectations for the upcoming Brier. “If we go out there and play our best every game, I’ll be happy. It’s going to be tough, there’s no question, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Gaudet first represented P.E.I. at the Brier as a skip at the 1994.
Spectators packed into the refurbished Cornwall Curling Centre for the championship game Monday night.
They were treated to a close-fought battle that ended when Gallant’s final stone in the 10th end slid heavy through the house, handing Gaudet the deuce and the win.
“We knew if we made him draw it wouldn’t be a gimme,” said Gaudet of his strategy in the final end. “So we played the hit on my first one and we just made him make it, and unfortunately he got in the fast stuff and it went a little bit too far.”
Starting with the hammer, Gallant struck first, picking up a deuce in the third end to go up 2-0.
But his missed shot in the fourth set up an easy triple for Gaudet, who took a 3-2 lead.
Gallant tied it with a single in the fifth, then took a 4-3 lead with a steal in the seventh.
But Gaudet made a perfect shot in the eighth end to pick up a pair and go up 5-4.
“Credit to him, it was a good shot,” Gallant said, who picked up a single in the ninth end to tie. “In the ninth end, I just got a little wide on a double there, and that was kind of the turning point I think. We had a good chance there to get a two-point lead, but that’s the way it goes.”
“It kind of got tricky in the last couple ends, but Mike and them seemed to make everything. They deserved it,” he added.
A dejected Gallant admitted it wasn’t his rink’s best tournament, but they managed to “sneak out a few wins’’ to get to the final.
“It’s tough,” he said. “This is the one we really wanted. But all in all, we did have a good season.”
Prior to Monday night’s final, his team mounted a furious comeback in the semifinal against Rod MacDonald’s rink, coming back from a 6-3 deficit to win 7-6.
Gallant’s rink scored a deuce in the ninth, then stole a deuce in the 10th to complete a nearly unthinkable rally.
“We’ve had a really good year,” he said. “It’s unfortunate for it to end like this, but Mike’s team played well. I wish I had made a couple more shots coming down the last couple ends, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. We have lots of years left. We’re just going to have to keep practicing I guess.”
Gallant is a former national junior champ, and a world junior silver medalist.
His foursome recently won the Atlantic Curling Tour championship in Moncton. Gallant also teamed up with MacFadyen to win the Atlantic university curling crown.