CORNWALL â Itâs 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 yearâs Brier takes place in Saskatoon from March 3 to 11.
Gaudetâs rink defeated 21-year-old Brett Gallantâs rink 7-5 in what was an intense Tankard final Monday night.
âItâs a little unexpected,â Gaudet admitted after the match. âGoing into the year, our goal was to obviously win this year, but when you finally play good enough and it comes true . . . itâs just hard to take in right now.â
His rink of third Tyler MacKenzie, second Tyler Harris, and lead Sean Clarey play out of the Charlottetown Curling Club.
âWe gelled together well all year, I found,â Gaudet told The Guardian. âWe get along great and the guys . . . they played great in front of me. So it makes my job a lot easier.â
Gaudet represented Prince Edward Island at the Brier last year as a third in Eddie MacKenzieâs rink. Alex MacFadyen was the lead.
Monday night, Gaudet, the older brother of womenâs curler Suzanne Birt, beat both MacKenzie and MacFayden, who now play with Gallantâs rink. Anson Carmody, the younger brother of local curling star Erin Carmody, served as Gallantâs second.
âI just want to play our best,â Gaudet said of his expectations for the upcoming Brier. âIf we go out there and play our best every game, Iâll be happy. Itâs going to be tough, thereâs no question, but weâre looking forward to it.â
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 Gallantâs final stone in the 10th end slid heavy through the house, handing Gaudet the deuce and the win.
âWe knew if we made him draw it wouldnât be a gimme,â said Gaudet of his strategy in the final end. âSo 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.â
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.
âCredit to him, it was a good shot,â Gallant said, who picked up a single in the ninth end to tie. âIn 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 thatâs the way it goes.â
âIt kind of got tricky in the last couple ends, but Mike and them seemed to make everything. They deserved it,â he added.
A dejected Gallant admitted it wasnât his rinkâs best tournament, but they managed to âsneak out a few winsââ to get to the final.
âItâs tough,â he said. âThis is the one we really wanted. But all in all, we did have a good season.â
Prior to Monday nightâs final, his team mounted a furious comeback in the semifinal against Rod MacDonaldâs rink, coming back from a 6-3 deficit to win 7-6.
Gallantâs rink scored a deuce in the ninth, then stole a deuce in the 10th to complete a nearly unthinkable rally.
âWeâve had a really good year,â he said. âItâs unfortunate for it to end like this, but Mikeâs team played well. I wish I had made a couple more shots coming down the last couple ends, but thatâs the way it goes sometimes. We have lots of years left. Weâre just going to have to keep practicing I guess.â
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.