A new Ryan Express riding high at 2017 Canadian Juniors

When JT Ryan needs some strategy advice, suffice it to say he’s got some pretty decent options.

His dad, Jeff, is a world curling champion, having thrown third rocks for Kerry Burtnyk’s 1995 Manitoba team.

His uncle, Pat, is a two-time world curling champ, having skipped the winning team in 1989 (known popularly as the Ryan Express) and then doing it again as a third for Rick Folk five years later.

P.E.I. skip Tyler Smith shouts directions to his sweepers as Manitoba skip JT Ryan looks on. (Photo, Curling Canada/Al Cameron)

So, JT — who gives the best advice?

“More my dad. But he’s usually the one to tell me when I do something stupid; he’ll let me know after the game,” said the laughing 19-year-old skip, who has his Manitoba team at 5-0 at the 2017 Canadian Junior Curling Championships, presented by Ambrosia Apples, after a 7-5 win over Prince Edward Island’s Tyler Smith (4-2; Charlottetown) on Tuesday at the Archie Browning Sports Centre.. “I don’t really see Pat too often because he lives in B.C., but the talks I have with him are good.”

Ryan, backed up by third Jacques Gauthier (son of three-time Scotties champ Cathy Gauthier), second Graham McFarlane, lead Brendan Bilawka and coach John Lund, has the Manitobans in good shape heading to the championship round, which begins Wednesday; a win Tuesday night against New Brunswick’s Liam Marin (3-2; Saint John) would give the Manitobans a 3-0 record against the teams that will accompany them into the championship round.

“They’d (P.E.I.) only lost once going into that one, so it was pretty big for us to get ready for the championship round and not have that loss on our record,” said Ryan. “Our first goal was to make the championship round; now that we’ve done that, we’ll focus on getting out of the championship round (and into the playoffs). Just one step at a time.”

JT (the initials stand for John Thomas; “I don’t like the name John; that’s about it,” explained Ryan) lives and breathes curling — hardly surprising, considering his lineage. He’s an ice technician at his home club, the Assiniboine Memorial in Winnipeg, and his sister Hailey, is throwing third rocks for Manitoba’s Laura Burtnyk (yes, Kerry’s daughter) in the women’s division.

And, yeah, there’s that famous last name.

“When I’m throwing, I can’t see the name so it doesn’t matter to me,” said Ryan, who, unlike his dad and uncle, delivers from the port side. “The name is obviously meaningful, but it doesn’t add any pressure to me. All the names out here are pretty recognizable names from Manitoba, and it’s pretty cool that we’re all out here.”

B.C. third Marika Van Osch delivers her rock in B.C.’s win over Nunavut on Tuesday. (Photo, Curling Canada/Al Cameron)

Manitoba, P.E.I., New Brunswick and Alberta’s  Colton Goller (Calgary; 4-2) are through to the championship round from Pool A. In Pool B, B.C.’s Tyler Tardi (4-0; Langley/New Westminster), Northern Ontario’s Jacob Horgan (3-2; Copper Cliff) and Nova Scotia’s Matthew Manuel (3-2; Halifax) are through, while Ontario’s Matthew Hall (2-2; Kitchener) needs a win over Nunavut’s Arthur Siksik (0-4; Rankin Inlet) to be the eighth and final championship round men’s qualifier.

In other men’s games Tuesday afternoon, Nova Scotia beat Nunavut 14-2, Newfoundland/Labrador’s Greg Blyde (2-4; St. John’s) turned back Sawer Kaeser of the Northwest Territories (0-5; Fort Smith) 7-5, and Alberta knocked off New Brunswick 11-6.

In women’s play, Newfoundland/Labrador’s Brooke Godsland (3-2; St. John’s) took a big step toward the championship round with a 7-6 win over Manitoba (2-3; Winnipeg).

Newfoundland/Labrador will move on with a win over Zoey Walsh of the Northwest Territories (0-5; Hay River) later Tuesday.

Northwest Territories skips Zoey Walsh, left, and Sawer Kaeser. (Photo, Curling Canada/Al Cameron)

In other women’s games, B.C.’s Corryn Brown (4-2; Kamloops) was a 14-3 winner over Nunavut’s Sadie Pinksen (1-5; Iqaluit); P.E.I.’s Lauren Lenentine (3-3; Cornwall) beat the NWT 9-6; and Northern Ontario’s Krysta Burns (3-3; Sudbury) rolled past Samantha Crook of New Brunswick (3-2; Fredericton).

There will be tiebreakers Wednesday at 9 a.m to decide the final two qualifiers for the women’s championship round.

Should Newfoundland/Labrador beat the Territories, the Easterners will join Saskatchewan’s Kaitlyn Jones (4-1; Regina) and Alberta’s Kristen Streifel (4-1; Edmonton) in the championship round out of Pool A while P.E.I. will meet the winner of Tuesday night’s game between Manitoba and defending Canadian and world champ Kristin Clarke of Nova Scotia (2-3; Halifax).

In Pool B, Ontario’s Hailey Armstrong (5-0; Ottawa) and B.C. have advanced, while the loser of Tuesday night’s game between New Brunswick and Camille Boisvert (3-2; Lévis) will play Northern Ontario for the final berth.

For the women, the 14 teams are split into two seven-team pools. The top four in each pool advance to the championship round, carrying forward their full won-lost records, while the other teams play in a seeding round to determine the pools for the 2018 Juniors in Shawinigan, Que.

For the men, since Yukon is not represented this year, they are split into one seven-team and one six-team pool. Following the round robin within their pool, the top four teams in each advance to the championship round but will carry forward only their won-lost records amongst the qualifiers.

Action at the 2017 Canadian Juniors concludes Tuesday with a draw 7 p.m. (All times PST).