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Ontario tops Manitoba in tiebreaker at 2017 Canadian Junior Championships

VICTORIA — Matt Hall and his team from Kitchener needed to work overtime to do it, but the Ontario champs are off to the playoffs at the 2017 Canadian Junior Curling Championships, presented by Ambrosia Apples.

Matt Hall and Team Ontario have clinched a playoff berth at the 2017 Canadian Juniors. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

Hall didn’t need to throw his last rock in the extra end, as Manitoba’s JT Ryan was heavy with his final-rock draw Friday afternoon at the Archie Browning Sports Centre in a men’s playoff tiebreaker, giving Ontario an 8-7 victory to qualify for Saturday’s men’s semifinal at 5:30 p.m. (all times PST).

Hall, backed up by vice-skip Jeff Wanless, second Joey Hart, lead David Hart and coach Ray Bushfield, will take on provincial rival Tanner Horgan of Northern Ontario (Copper Cliff) in the semi, with the winner moving on to play B.C.’s Tyler Tardi (Langley/New Westminster) for gold Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Ontario found itself down 6-4 through seven ends, after Manitoba stole a pair in the seventh when Hall’s last-rock double-takeout attempt went wrong.

Manitoba skip JT Ryan looks over the shoulder of Ontario skip Matt Hall during Friday’s tiebreaker. (Photo, Curling Canada/Michael Burns)

But Ontario bounced back quickly, with Hall making an open draw to score a game-tying deuce in the eighth and then stealing one in the ninth when Ryan just missed on his draw to bite the button while looking at three Ontario counters.

Manitoba was forced to a single in the 10th, and when Ryan was heavy on his final delivery, Ontario had cause to celebrate.

“I’d be lying if I said we weren’t down after that steal of two, but we knew we were still in the game; we knew that if we got a deuce right back, we were still in it,” said Hall, 19. “And we have the patience and tenacity to wait out another team. So I was confident that we would still be able to make it a game.”

Ontario was a 7-4 winner over Northern Ontario in their round-robin affair.

“They’re a very good team, and we’re going to have to play our best in order to have a shot tomorrow,” said Hall. “But I feel confident; this game was a great one because it gives us the confidence moving forward that we can battle it out for 10, or even 11 good ends. And hopefully we come out on the right side of the inch tomorrow.”

Ontario’s victory ended Manitoba’s bid for an unprecedented fifth consecutive Canadian junior men’s title; Matt Dunstone won in 2013 and 2016, while Braeden Calvert won in 2014 and 2015.

The women’s semifinal is set for Saturday at 1:30 p.m. between Alberta’s Kristen Streifel (Edmonton) and Northern Ontario’s Krysta Burns (Sudbury).

The winner will take on undefeated Hailey Armstrong of Ontario (Ottawa) in the gold-medal game Sunday at 9 a.m.

The non-playoff teams will compete in a mixed doubles tournament Saturday and Sunday.

TSN/RDS2, the official broadcaster of Curling Canada’s Season of Champions, will provide live and exclusive coverage of the womenʼs and menʼs semifinals on Saturday and finals on Sunday. The same games also will be streamed live in the U.S. on ESPN3.

The winning teams Sunday will represent Canada at the 2017 VoIP Defender World Junior Championships, Feb. 16-26 in Gangneung, South Korea.