A partisan crowd at the Art Hauser Centre didn’t hinder J.T. Ryan in the slightest Saturday night.
The Manitoba skip topped Saskatchewan’s Rylan Kleiter by a score of 9-3 in the New Holland Canadian Juniors men’s semifinal Saturday and earned a berth into Sunday’s championship game at 1 p.m. against two-time defending national champion and reigning world title holder Tyler Tardi of British Columbia.
“I’ve been lucky enough to get one step further each time, but this is my last chance before I age out so hopefully we can be on our game tomorrow and we’ll see what happens,” said Ryan, who finished in third place at last year’s tournament.
“You see the guys (previous Manitoba junior champions Matt Dunstone and Braden Calvert) go on and win national titles…and that just drives you to be like them one day.”
In what was a 2-1 game, Ryan took control in the seventh end as he made a draw to the back four-foot for a sure two points, which turned out to be three points after a measurement of a pair of stones in the eight-foot.
“We knew that end was a big one and we felt like that was our chance to get a deuce,” Ryan said. “We were lucky enough to get three there after a measurement, which might have been the fourth of the game at that point. It was kind of ridiculous.”
“It never felt like a comfortable lead though. We could miss one shot and they could string a couple of shots together. Anything can happen in junior curling.”
Kleiter sent the crowd into a frenzy with a fantastic triple bump back for two points in the eighth, but Ryan would wrap up proceedings in the ninth with a quiet hit for four.
“The boys were confident that we could still make some shots and that (eighth) end turned out well for us,” Kleiter said.
“We would have liked to have had a few more rocks in play early on, but our hats go off to Manitoba. They were making runbacks and didn’t give us much room.”
Kleiter’s Saskatoon Sutherland rink, which includes third Trevor Johnson, second Joshua Mattern and lead Matthieu Taillon, enjoyed an excellent week in Prince Albert as they earned their best result in their third trip to the nationals.
All four players, who will compete in the Saskatchewan’s men provincial playdowns in Whitewood next week, are eligible to return for a final year of junior curling.
“You get a little better every time you come here, whether it’s from learning the ice conditions at the arenas or understanding how the event works,” Kleiter said.
“It was unbelievable to be the home team, especially when you hear the crowd go wild when you are making shots. It gave us so much energy.”
With the win, Ryan’s Winnipeg based rink will now gear up for a 3 p.m. matchup Sunday with Tardi, who can set a record by winning his third national title along with vice Sterling Middleton.
Ryan did win the head-to-head matchup in the round-robin Thursday by a score of 7-4, but that contest was held at the Prince Albert Golf & Curling Club.
“We can feel good about that game as we go into the final as we know that we can beat him,” Ryan said.
“However, Tyler’s a world champion. He’s been there and done that. This is all new for us.”
The final is also a rematch of last year’s national semifinal in Shawinigan, Que., which Tardi won 9-8.
The women’s final will take place at 10 a.m. Sunday as British Columbia’s Sarah Daniels will take on Selena Sturmay and her undefeated rink from Alberta.