For two young Manitoba curling teams, 2017 couldn't have ended on a better note.
Hours before 2017 turned to 2018, CurlManitoba crowned a men's and women's junior curling provincial champion.
Team J.T. Ryan won the men's junior title after defeating Team Jordan Peters 8-4 on Sunday afternoon at the Millennium Exhibition Centre in Altona, Man. It's the second provincial title in a row for Team Ryan, who finished the event with an 8-1 record.
"We knew that having won it last year, that when teams play against us that they were gunna be shooting pretty well and we were right," said skip J.T Ryan.
"We had a lot of tough ones early and got a little lucky and won some games that maybe we shouldn't have. The other teams were playing so well because I think they knew they had to play like that to keep up with us and they did a really good job at that."
Team Ryan, who curl out of Assiniboine Memorial Curling Club in Winnipeg, were tied with Team Peters 3-3 after the first six ends in Sunday's final. In the seventh, Team Ryan was able to take over the game as they came up with a big four-point end.
"I just think we were patient. They controlled the game early but we hung in there and we were patient until the seventh end and we were lucky enough to crack a big one," said the 20-year old Ryan.
Ryan, lead Brendan Bilawka and third Jacques Gauthier were on last year's winning team. Second Colin Kurz was the lone new addition to the team. Ryan said the experience from last year's run was a big help with year's team. They suffered a 9-4 loss in the second game of the tournament at the hands of Team Brooks Freeman, but Ryan said his team was able to quickly put the loss behind them and focus on winning out.
"Nobody was panicking or anything. We just knew we had to take it one game at a time," Ryan said.
The women's junior provincial champions — Team Shae Bevan — also had to put an early loss behind them on route to winning the Manitoba title.
Team Bevan lost 8-6 to Paige Watkins in their opening match before winning eight straight games to win the tournament.
"First game went down to the last rock," said skip Shae Bevan. "We didn't have any negative thoughts. It's good to get our first loss out of the way in the first game. We just had to be strong for the rest of the round robin and that's what we did."
Team Bevan won a closely contested final, that was also played at the Millennium Exhibition Centre, as they edged out Team Meghan Walter 6-5. They were down 5-4 after five ends, but tacked on a single in the eight and ninth to give them the 6-5 advantage. It was a remarkable turn around for Team Bevan — who curl out of St. Vital Curling Club — as they finished with a 2-5 record at last year's provincials.
"Initially our goal was to beat our record from last year's provincials of 2-5, we did that. Then after we reached that goal, we said, 'let's try to make the playoffs,' and then we did that. And then we said, 'let's embrace this and try to have some fun,'" said Bevan.
Bevan and her team featuring lead Jessica Hancox, second Paige Beaudry and third Kyla Grabowski have been playing together for two years. Bevan said this year the team has come closer together and it has paid off on the ice.
"Last year was a little rough with it being our first year together. We were still getting used to eachother. This year we got used to each other and more importantly, we became best friends," said Bevan.
Team Ryan and Team Bevan will now get the chance to represent Manitoba at the New Holland Canadian Junior Men’s and Women’s Curling Championships, January 13-21, 2018 in Shawinigan, Que.
Team Ryan finished fourth place at last year's nationals and they are eager to get back there to improve on last year's result.
"We're really excited to go back and build off from last year. But really, our goal is to win our first game and take it from there," said Ryan.
For Bevan and her team, this will be a completely new experience and one that they're not going to take for granted.
"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Bevan said on representing Manitoba at nationals. "We just want to have some fun."
Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.
Updated on Sunday, December 31, 2017 at 10:05 PM CST: Corrects location reference.