Monday, 13 February 2017

Beierling ends the Slater Streak, Wins in Hamilton

While Ray Beierling had had success at the Golden Horseshoe Crokinole Tournament, he, along with many others, hadn’t had so much success against Justin Slater. But a Singles tournament win streak for Slater that had began in May of 2015, came to an end on the last Saturday of January 2017, when Ray Beierling was unrelenting, and ultimately came away as the victor.

It was another big crowd at the event, where even with a few late withdrawals, the total attendance still matched the record set in 2015 of 44 entries. The morning round robin split the field into 4 groups of 11, separating the players from Grismby, London, Waterloo, Kitchener, Milverton, Owen Sound, Toronto, Switzerland, and of course, Hamilton.
Photo Credit: Eric Miltenburg
While the morning round consisted of players jockeying for position in the afternoon, some ambitious fellows were also looking to claim the glory of the first “Perfect Game” of the tournament. It didn’t take long, only to game 3, for Ray Beierling to claim that title, on his way to a tournament high of 123 20s in 10 games. Beierling also topped the tournament in points with 73, ahead of Justin Slater at 67, Jon Conrad at 64, and Fred Slater at 64.

The afternoon split the field into 4 groups of equal skill with cash prizes on the line. Gloria Walsh topped the D Group with 48 points, and was joined in the playoffs by Lucas Merkli, Brian Henry and Cindy Paul, with Dorothy Rigg missing the playoffs by one single point. A playoff substitution required David Murray to compete in the semifinals, and it took the second seeded Merkli three games to win the match 6-2, 2-6, 6-0. The Walsh vs Paul semifinal was an even tighter affair with the two deadlocked and requiring extra rounds before Walsh won the match 6-0, 2-6, 8-4.
In the battle of the top 2 seeds, it was Switzerland’s Lucas Merkli showing top form, winning the D Pool final by a score of 6-4, 6-0.


The competition in Pool C saw a greater separation of the top 4 finalists as Jake Ruggi topped the group with 62, Jo-Ann Carter finished with 56, Lynda Baumann earned 50 and Peter Carter nabbed the final spot with 47 points through 10 games. Ruggi ploughed through the first game 6-0, but was nearly caught off guard with a late comeback from Peter Carter, who erased a 4-0 deficit in game 2, before Ruggi won the 2nd game tiebreaker and the match. Lynda Baumann was equal to the task early in the match, but Jo-Ann Carter’s consistency would win the bother semifinal 6-2, 6-0. The final between Carter and Ruggi pitted together two players who could have easily challenged for a solid spot in the A pool, and their match showed some fine skill, with the victory going to Jo-Ann Carter, over Hamilton’s hometown man 5-3, 6-2.

Group B also consisted of a remarkably strong group, who only competed in the section perhaps due to a slow start in the morning, or a highly competitive field of attendance at the tournament. The two Vaillancourt’s, Bev and Roger, sandwiched Eric Miltenburg at the top of the pile, with Bob Jones finishes 4th in the round at 46 points, to edge out Christina Campbell at 5th with 43. Jones remarked later that he wasn’t quite sure how all of the shots fell in to place, but he took his 4th seed into the finals after defeating Bev Vaillancourt 5-1, 5-1 in the semifinal. Roger Vaillancourt also scored an upset victory, in terms of seeding, over Eric Miltenburg, as he won the mach 5-3, 6-4. In the final, Bob Jones continued to play well, and earning one point in the final round of game one to take the first game 5-3. But Roger Vaillancourt responded incredibly well, winning the next two games 6-0, 6-0 to win the match and the B title.

In Pool A, Justin Slater and Ray Beierling, as they always seem to, found themselves entangled at the top of the scoreboard through the second round. Both earned 62 points, with Slater getting the top seed with 121 20s to Beierling’s 117, through 11 games. Jon Conrad earned 57 points and the third seed, while Nathan Walsh scored 55 points for the 4th seed. It was Andrew Hutchinson, finishing 5th for the second tournament in a row, with 51 points, and Fred Slater at 6th with 50.
Both semifinals gave rematches of previous NCA finals this year: Slater vs Walsh in Belleville and Tavistock, Beierling vs Conrad in Owen Sound. Both semifinals would end in the exact same score of 6-4, 6-0, but it was Justin Slater backing up his previous head-to-head victories over Walsh, while Ray Beierling flipped the result of the Owen Sound final won by Conrad.

And so the final matched Ray Beierling, making his 5th Hamilton final, against Justin Slater, looking for his 7th consecutive title. The match began with each player trading 2 points on hammer, when Slater scored a slight edge in the 3rd round of game one, tying the round without hammer, and taking a 3-3 game into the 4th round. Slater finished the first game with 2 points on hammer in the next round for 5-3.



Beierling stole 2 points to start game 2, but Slater looked to be back in it when he sole 1 point in the following round. However, Beierling was near perfect on the 20s, and won the third round against the hammer, 5-1, to force a decisive game. Beierling jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the third game, and was ahead for most of the 2nd round, until Slater scored a takeout and 20 on the final shot to tie the round. However, Beierling pushed on and won the match in the next round 3-5, 5-1, 5-1.

The win is Ray Beierling’s 17th NCA title. He now sits 2 behind Brian Cook’s top mark of 19, and level with Justin Slater, also at 17. The win is also Beierling’s second title of the 2016-2017 NCA Tour, which at least puts him within striking distance of challenging Slater for grand prize, if Beierling can manage one more victory before the finale in St. Jacobs.


And if Beierling is looking for one more victory, he may find it most fitting to earn the victory at the London tournament, which he has dominated, winning 4 titles. That event is the next on the NCA Tour, happening on Saturday, March 25th at the St. James Westminster Anglican Church.



Thursday, 1 December 2016

Conrad narrowly edges Beierling for Owen Sound Championship

Jon Conrad and Ray Beierling were side by side throughout every round in Owen Sound, and when it came to the final match there was absolutely nothing in between them, until the last round when Conrad managed to gain the only separation he needed to claim the Scenic City Crokinole title.

The brisk November weather was a sure sign of things to come for the Canadian Winter, but it was a good day for 20s around the crokinole board, which cooked up some ridiculously high scores and several perfect games.

18 Doubles teams comprised of a large portion of the local crokinole contingent, and they were joined by 23 competitive Singles players from New York, London, Kitchener-Waterloo and Penetanguishene. 

The morning singles round consisted of 10 games with players vying for afternoon pools. Ray Beierling led the way in points with 65 and 20s with 118. 6 players reached or surpassed the century mark in 20s, as Jon Conrad, Nathan Walsh, Jason Beierling, Roy Campbell, and Dwayne Campbell used those high scores to make the A Group. The final two spots were snagged by Andrew Hutchinson and Ezra Jantzi. Jantzi’s 47 points were just enough to edge out Robert Bonnett at 46 points.

Al Arnold (left) and Bob Jones (centre) - Owen Sound
Recreational Doubles Champions
The Recreational pool consisted of a Doubles round robin, as is always the case at Owen Sound as they miraculously juggle the two events simultaneously. Inside the 18 doubles teams there were 13 first-time participants, which certainly didn’t curtail their enthusiasm or chances in the tournament.

Al Arnold and Bob Jones made some noise early in the event for many reasons. Not only were they racking up points, but a chair malfunction had one member of the pair on the ground in the middle of the game. That however, was not enough to slow them down as they scored 71 points to win the title. Neil and Carol Cook had finished second last year, and scored a significant number of 20s with 96 (19 more than the next team), but had to settle for 5th place with 57 points.

Winning just enough points for the top 4 was Clark Campbell and Paul Armstrong as they scored 58 points. Corey McRae and Mike Mazurek played very well in their very first tournament, earning 65 points for 3rd place. They were just beat by Bill Harris and Larry Hennessey, who also scored 65 points, but had a better 20s score at 73 20s.

In Group C of the Competitive side, Clare Kuepfer ploughed through the second round with an incredible 37 points in 6 games. He was followed by Peter Carter at 27 points, and Jo-Ann Carter and Derek McKie at 25 points, just beating Gloria Walsh for the final playoff spot by 2 points. 

In a fantastically tight playoff round robin, only 2 points separated 1st from 4th. It was Derek McKie making the most of the smallest margins, winning the C group with 13 points. Clare Kuepfer had to settle for 2nd with 12 points, ahead of Peter and Jo-Ann Carter at 12 and 11 points respectively.

In the B group, Roger Vaillancourt and Robert Bonnett battled for the top seed, with Vaillancourt getting the honours with an equal 33 points, but an additional 5 20s. They were joined in the playoffs by Eric Miltenburg, racking 30 points, and Brian Simpson at 29 points and 50 20s. Christina Campbell finished in the unlucky position of 5th, as she also scored 20 points, but her mark of 43 20s wasn’t enough.

In the playoffs, Brian Simpson stepped up to another notch, playing well enough for 14 points, but Roger Vaillancourt was unstoppable with 17 points of a maximum 24 in the 3 games, for the Owen Sound B title.

The A group saw the 20 scores continue to be quite high as the players battled for a top 4 qualifying spot to keep their shot at the title alive. Jon Conrad finished first with 33 points and 82 20s in 7 games (which is on pace for 117 in 10 games). Dwayne Campbell scored 33 points and 65 20s for second. Ray Beierling and Ezra Jantzi rounded out the playoff qualifiers, as Andrew Hutchinson’s 8-0 squashing of Nathan Walsh in the final round was only enough for 5th place at 28 points.

While the Owen Sound tournament has many annual returnees, the tournament seems to experience an unusual amount of parity, and the A group’s playoff qualifiers exemplify that. Despite all of last year’s top 3 finishers returning, none of them made the top 4 again this year. In fact, in the entire 6 year history of the event, only twice has someone made the top 3 in two consecutive years. The first was Brian Cook’s back-to-back victories in 2011 and 2012, and the second was Nathan Walsh’s agonizing playoff defeats in the semifinals in 2013 and finals in 2014.

The top 4 round robin saw some dominating performances from Ray Beierling and Jon Conrad who, once again, had very little separation between them. The first round of the tournament saw Ray Beierling at 65 points to Jon Conrad’s 63. The second round had Conrad at 33 and Beierling at 32. The playoffs gave an edge to Beierling at 18 points to 17. Through the entire day only a two point separation appeared (115 to 113), as they headed to the Championship match.

Some recognition should be given to the other playoff qualifiers, as Ezra Jantzi is certainly gaining a stiff competitive edge quickly. In only his first full NCA season, and just his second singles tournament this year, he’s already found the top 4. For someone that was only seen as the dark horse finisher in the Top 16 several times at the World Championships, he is definitely making himself well known, and one must wonder what else is to come.

Meanwhile, Dwayne Campbell is making a case as the breakthrough star of this year’s NCA Tour. Only two singles events played this season, and already two top 4 finishes. He’s emerging as another potent 20 scorer and pulled off some pretty nice angle ricochet shots on Saturday, and should be very fun to follow throughout the rest of the season.

Double Takeout? - Conrad contemplates a crucial shot in
the 8th round of the championship match
So Ray Beierling and Jon Conrad were set to face off in the “First to 11” points final. They had met in 3 finals previously, all of which sided with Ray Beierling (2010 in Exeter, 2013 in Turtle Island, and 2015 in Brucefield at the ODCC).
Ray Beierling began with the hammer and held it for the 2-0 lead. Jon Conrad responded in kind to level the match 2-2, and so it went back and forth until Ray Beierling led 8-6. Conrad was up against it in the 8th round. Although he had the hammer, he trailed by a 20 and faced two opposing discs on the board with only two shots remaining. After making a long ricochet 20, Beierling missed long on his open 20, and Conrad elected a safer single takeout attempt as opposed to the double. While he may have hoped to follow through for a 20, he secured a single point in the round and Ray Beierling led 9-7.

Needing to win the round without the hammer, Conrad played it perfectly, not conceding a miss to level the match at 9-9, and held the hammer advantage for the final round. Conrad jumped out to lead, but Beierling was shocking in his ability to almost draw even, scoring a tough ricochet 20, and then having a second one unluckily bounce out of the 20 hole. That gave Jon Conrad the final exclamation point 20 to win the match, and win the Scenic City Crokinole title.

Jon Conrad (right) accepts the trophy from tournament organizer
Clare Kuepfer as 2016 Scenic City King of Crokinole
An incredible final match it was to close the tournament. While some of the noted cons of the “Race” format for a championship match are how one player can run away with the match, there are matches that can bring great tension and excitement with how evenly they unfold.


The NCA Tour breaks for the harshness of Winter and warmness of the holiday season, but when the new year comes in 2017 the crowd will be pleading for more crokinole, and so they will be satisfied when the Golden Horseshoe Crokinole Tournament takes place in Hamilton in late January.






Sunday, 30 October 2016

The Slaters back up World Title with Ontario Championship

Justin Slater (left centre) and Fred Slater (right centre)
accept prizes at the 2016 ODCC Winners
There were a lot of expectations swirling around Justin and Fred Slater in Brucefield. With Justin on an unbeaten streak that dates back to the Doubles event of the 2015 World Championship, and with the two of them only a few months removed from their third World Championship Doubles title, they were definitely looked at as one of the top teams. And although they may not have looked the part for the whole day, one cannot argue with their play late as they found an unstoppable groove to win the 2016 Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship.

A total of 50 players made it to the Brucefield United Church on a cloudy Fall day, making for 14 competitive teams and another 11 competing in the Recreational division. The attendees included several members of the host Varna Crokinole Club, along with teams from Toronto, Waterloo, St. Jacobs, London, Goderich, Penetanguishene and Lewiston, New York.

The Recreational side played a round-robin in the morning, followed by a Pool A and B split in the afternoon, while the Competitive division was set for a full 14 team round-robin, with the top 4 advancing to the playoffs.

In the Recreational B group the scores were incredibly close, with the 5 team standings only being separated by a total of 2 points. David Carnahan and Fred Smith finished with 16 points, just missing the final by one point. In that final, Doris Giddings and Phylis Lightfoot won over Karen Robinson and Mary Hohmann.

Ron Reesor and Tony van den Hoven looked great on the Recreational A side, finishing with 32 points for the top seed. Cathy Kuepfer and Carol Cook fended off Alec Ostrem and Pete Wiley for the spot in the final, but couldn’t topple Reesor and van den Hoven, who won the title.

Included in the top prizes for both the Recreational A and B champions (and top 2 Competitive) was free entry for the 2017 ODCC, so expect to see these teams return to compete for their crown.

Ron Reesor and Tony van den Hoven
2016 ODCC Recreational Champs
Shifting to the Competitive category, there were several teams that had a history of success and could challenge for the title.

Justin and Fred Slater had a lot of momentum coming into the tournament. Obviously a win at the most recent World Championships will make anyone a favourite, but the two had also teamed up to finish 2nd at the ODCC in 2014. Justin Slater's singles success now included 7 straight victories, while Fred Slater had dominated the tournament with Brian Cook from 2010 to 2012, winning three times in a row. They had a rough opening to the day, and sat tied for 4th midway through the round robin. But they were more solid through the second half, and finished with 61 points for the third seed.

Ezra Jantzi was taking part in his first doubles tournament, and he teamed up with the 2015 ODCC Recreational Champ, Peter Carter. The newfound pairing started strong, and was in third place at the lunch break, but lost a step in the afternoon and fell to 6th. Howard Martin and Bob Jones also looked strong through the morning, sitting tied with the Slaters at the break, but fell to a similar fate and finished 7th. Dwayne and Christina Campbell turned heads at last years event with a 4th place finish, and both have already had some strong singles performances with Christina finishing in the top 4 of the Recreational category in New York in August, and Dwayne placing 4th in the competitive. They had some strong moments throughout the day, but couldn’t quite reach the level of play from last year and finished 8th.

Paul Brubacher and Roy Campbell - 4th Place 2016 ODCC
The partnership of Ray and Jason Beierling is perhaps the longest active crokinole doubles pairing. Their competitive history dates back to before the 1999 World Championship, which they won, and is still elite today. The Beierlings had been favourites to win the ODCC since they started the tournament in 2010, but only broke through to victory in 2013. Of course their success continued and they entered this 2016 tournament as the three-time defending champions. And they looked so very strong throughout the round robin, earning 86 points to easily place first in the group.

Jon Conrad and Andrew Hutchinson - 3rd Place 2016 ODCC

Tom and Rex Johnston usually join the Beierlings to represent the Varna Crokinole Club at the Joseph Schneider Haus event. They are a somewhat unique pair in that they often enjoy more success in the doubles events than either does separately in the singles. Their very steady and consistent play has earned them a reputation as one of the best doubles teams, were they placed 3rd in both the 2015 World and Ontario Championships. They were snake-bitten on this day though, and missed a few key shots that were costly as they finished 5th with 54 points.


The Johnstons were narrowly edged out by Paul Brubacher and Roy Campbell, who are fun pair shotmakers. Both have had success at the World Championships together and apart, but they   made their first appearance in the top 4 at the ODCC this year, with 57 points. Both of them possess and dangerous combination of skill and adventurousness, that can change a game in an instant.

Jon Conrad has always been regarded as a great doubles player, which has only been backed up by his fantastic performances with many different partners (he has made the top 6 Doubles playoffs at the WCC with four different partners). Although he transitioned to a partner who didn’t originate from the Cameron Heights Teachers Club, he did find another teacher to partner with in Andrew Hutchinson. Andrew Hutchinson returned to the tournament that marked his first experience in the “fingers game” last year. He has been much complimented for his remarkable performance in crokinole's two great formats of stick and finger, and only more of it was shown on the day. They looked unbeatable at times, and finished 2nd in the round robin with 73 points.

Semifinals - Conrad/Hutchinson vs Slater/Slater
That setup up the semifinals with Jason and Ray Beierling against Roy Campbell and Paul Brubacher, and Jon Conrad and Andrew Hutchinson against Justin and Fred Slater. The format of the matches was “first to 9” points and both started out with each team on equal footing. 

The Beierlings took their first step towards victory when they stole 2 points against the hammer to lead 6-2 after four rounds. Campbell and Brubacher would gain back a little bit of ground, but the Beierlings were too solid and won the match 10-4 to move to the finals.

The Conrad/Hutchinson v Slater/Slater match was a tense battle and when tied 6-6, it started to look like the Conrad/Hutchinson hammer advantage, from finishing higher in the round robin, was really going to come into play. But the Slaters were able to raise their game in the next round, and leading 8-6, they closed out the victory with their hammer to win 10-6 and move to the final.

In the final (a “first to 11” contest) the Beierlings fell into a hole early, but seemed to be climbing their way out of it when Justin Slater went into “can’t miss” mode. In one particular round, Jason Beierling made several angle ricochets to level the 20 count, and with all the pressure on, Justin Slater simply followed with an Open 20 score to take the lead back. Fred and Justin Slater would close the match by a score of 12-6 to win their first Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship as a team, and be the first team to hold the WCC and ODCC Doubles titles at the same time.

Players and spectators alike, focussed during the
2016 ODCC Final
For Fred Slater, it was his record-setting 4th ODCC title, now ahead of Brian Cook, Ray Beierling and Jason Beierling at 3. While Justin Slater now raises his NCA Tour points total to a perfect 200. With 6 events remaining on the 2016-2017 Tour, it is possible another player also reaches that score, but odds certainly look good for Justin Slater to win the Tour.


And speaking of the Tour, the next stop is in Owen Sound for the Scenic City Crokinole Championship. The tournament takes place on November 26th and features a Recreational Doubles and a Competitive Singles category. Information for registration by phone or email can be found with this link.



.

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Justin Slater Makes it 3 in a Row

In what was a rematch of the World Championship final 3 months earlier, and the Belleville final two years prior, Justin Slater came out on top in a match with Nathan Walsh and claimed the 2016 Belleville Crokinole Challenge for the third year in a row.

In what was a tournament record of 39 in competition, the crew of crokinole enthusiasts gathered in the Quinte Sports and Wellness Centre for the 6th edition of the event. After some words by Belleville Mayor, Taso A. Christopher, the event was underway.

In the morning preliminary round Jon Conrad registered the high-score with 68 points in 10 games. Justin Slater, Roy Campbell, Ezra Jantzi and Ray Beierling followed just behind to fill in the top 5. Rounding out those qualifying for the afternoon Group A were Len Chard, Reuben Jong and Bev Vaillancourt. That left Quinte’s own, Shirley Sager as the first qualifier in Group B, falling just 2 points shy of the Group A cutoff.

The afternoon competition had split the field into three groups. Peter Carter and Peter Klaassen each scored 56 points for the top two spots in Group C, while Helen Noonan and Ron Hebden earned the final spots in the semifinals. The contest was very tight as Bob Leggett, Dale Henry and Jennifer Scott each scored 44 points, missing the 4th seed by a mere 3 points. 

In the semifinals, Peter Klaassen won game 1 over Helen Noonan 6-2, but Noonan forced a third game after earning a 4-4 tie in game 2. Klaassen would complete the victory, with a win in game 3 to move into the final.

Matt Brown (left) awarding C Group
Champ, Peter Carter (right).
Meanwhile, Ron Hebden and Peter Carter were going the distance. After the two tied game 1, Hebden won game 2, while Carter won game 3. That forced the implementation of the Quinte Convention Tie-Breaker. The tie-breaker format has been met with mixed reviews, but ultimately has been revolutionary to crokinole since it was first introduced in 2012. The tie-breaker consists of “pairs of rounds” which gives each competitor one round with the hammer advantage. If a player earns an edge after 2 rounds (with a score of 3-1 or 4-0), then the match is over, while a tie after the 2 rounds (with a 2-2 score) means another “pair of rounds” will be played to break the tie.

Carter and Hebden stretched the match out with some very even play, and after Pair 1 and Pair 2, the match was still tied. Peter Carter earned the decisive edge in Pair 3 to move on to the final. Klaassen had won the C title in 2015, but Carter would ride the momentum of the tight semifinal victory, and took the C title in two straight games.

Eric Miltenburg accepts the Reg Chisholm
Memorial title.
In Group B, Howard Martin played tremendously through the round robin, easily taking the top spot with 62 points over 10 games. Cathy Kuepfer earned the second seed with 52 points, and Eric Miltenburg was third with 50. For the final semifinal spot, Dave Brown edged out Alex Protas, with 46 points to Protas’ 45.

Whatever clutch play Dave Brown used to make the semifinals, he carried directly forward into the playoffs as he was able to defeat Howard Martin in 2 straight games. Meanwhile, Eric Miltenburg needed 3 games to beat Cathy Kuepfer to set up a final between the 3rd and 4th seeds. Miltenburg would prevail over Brown in the final, to win the B title and take home the Reg Chisholm Memorial trophy.

Reg Chisholm was a long-time member of the Quinte Region Crokinole Club, until his passing December of 2015. As Chisholm won the B title of the Belleville event in 2012, the club saw it fitting to name the title in the honour of sportsmanship, talent and humour that he offered to the game of crokinole.

In Group A, the competitors were vying for the “Eastern Challenge” trophy and the Belleville title. The Eastern Challenge trophy had been repurposed in previous years to award the Belleville tournament champion, but it used to serve as the top prize for a 3-team club tournament (similar to the Joseph Schneider Haus) that included crokinole clubs of Ottawa, Kawartha and Belleville.

With 13 players looking for a spot in the semifinals, Ray Beierling once again came through the round robin strong and earned the top seed with 54 points. Roy Campbell scored 49 points for second, and Nathan Walsh and Justin Slater each scored 47 for the final spots. That left Fred Slater in the unfortunate bubble position, finishing the round robin with 44 points for 5th place in the tournament.

Ray Beierling met Justin Slater in the first semifinal, which was a rematch of the 2015 Belleville final. They split game 1 4-4, but Slater earned the victory after taking game 2 6-2, and earning a decisive 4-0 edge in game 3 to move on to the final.

Roy Campbell got an early edge in his semifinal against Nathan Walsh, winning game 1 5-1. Walsh levelled the match with a 5-3 win in game 2, and they headed to tie-breaker rounds when the score was tied 4-4 after game 3. The extra rounds were incredibly tense as the two of them traded wins in hammer rounds, and after 3 Pairs of extra rounds they were still tied. With a potential “Shootout” looming, Walsh narrowly clinched the match and advanced to the final.

Justin Slater - 2016 Belleville Champion
And so Walsh and Slater once again sat down in the final match with the tournament on the line. Justin Slater was riding a streak of 5 straight victories in singles events, while Nathan Walsh had entered his third consecutive tournament final. Walsh got ahead early, and led 3-1, but was denied a chance to win game 1 with the hammer when Justin Slater shot a perfect round, and tied game 1 3-3. Slater ran the momentum further and took the next round with hammer for a 5-3 win in game 1. In game 2, Slater led 2-0 and Walsh looked to respond by winning his hammer round, but Slater was too much to handle in 20s scoring and moved ahead 4-0. Walsh couldn’t amount any pressure in the third round of game 2, and Slater took the match by a score of 5-3, 6-0.

The win backs up Justin Slater's 2016 World Crokinole Championship title, and moves him to a score of 150 points after 3 events on the NCA Tour. Ray Beierling has the early lead with 187, Walsh sits in 2nd with 186, while Fred Slater is in 3rd with 163 and Jon Conrad sits 4th with 160.

But there is still a lot of action left on the 2016-2017 NCA Tour, with the next stop in Brucefield for the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship on October 15th.



Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Beierling Wins 2nd Turtle Island Tournament

Just South of the Canadian border Ray Beierling captured his second title at the US stop of the NCA Tour in Lewiston, New York. Beating Nathan Walsh in the finals of the Turtle Island Crokinole Tournament, Ray Beierling made it his 9th straight NCA Tour with winning a tournament title.

The weekend event began with a Friday Night Social, where the many guests were treated to food and crokinole action, while the remainder of the guests battled the border traffic on the Saturday morning. The tournament attendance reached another high, up to 47 in it’s 5th edition.

The morning began with preliminary round play, having the competitive and recreational fields split into 2 groups, while many Canadians shared their unique and always entertaining stories of trying to explain to a US border guard what exactly is a crokinole tournament.

After the first round a hearty lunch was provided as just a small piece of the hospitality and welcoming that makes the New York event so great. The experience of the Turtle Island Crokinole Tournament is a special one, and should be an NCA Tour stop that every crokinole player needs to partake in. The country-side setting of Lewiston is quite something just over the border, and the Tuscarora Nation House is a spectacle. The large windows, high ceilings and big common rooms have the makings of a great community centre, while the artwork adds unique character to the facility. Of particular note is the design of “The Moochie Man” (coined by Dale Henry) on the floor just after the main entrance into the building.

In the crokinole action, Zionne Jong come out very strong to win the Recreation C title, just ahead of Tiffany Henry. Meanwhile, Wayne Wolfgang and Dave Carnahan had been battling each other at the top of the Recreation B pool all afternoon, finishing 1-2 in the round robin at 42 and 38 points. Wolfgang scored the victory with 15 points, edging Carnahan, who had 14, in the playoffs.

In the Recreational A pool, Abijah Jong finished 3rd in the round robin, but turned it on in the playoffs, to win the title with 16 points. Just behind were Derek McKie, Jo Ann Carter and Christina Campbell, who rounded out the top 4 of the recreational side.

For the Competitive C title, Barry Kiggins and Beverly Vaillancourt faced each other in a thriller of a championship game. The “first to 11 points” format saw the two of them trade rounds back and forth before Kiggins broke a 9-9 tie to take the match and the C title 11-9.

In Pool B, Roy Campbell was playing well just after missing the Pool A cutoff, and grabbed the number one seed for the playoffs with 38 points. Dave Meijer had narrowly made the Pool B, but came out firing to earn the second spot with 36 points, as they were joined by Eric Miltenburg and Tony “Twenty” Snyder. Miltenburg won his semifinal against Meijer, while Campbell took a 10-6 decision over Snyder. And by that point, Campbell was showing the same form that earned him the Owen Sound title and the runner-up finish in St. Jacobs last season, as he won the final over Miltenburg 12-6.

The competitive Pool A group included many players who claimed they had not been practicing, when most likely the opposite was true. Regardless, Nathan Walsh, Ray Beierling and Andrew Hutchinson played very well through the round robin, all earning point totals in the 30s to grab the first 3 playoff positions. There was a significant log-jam for the final spot as Roger Vaillancourt scored 24 points, and Jon Conrad had 25, but it was Dwayne Campbell earning his second NCA playoff appearance (the first being the 2015 ODCC) with 26 points.

Both semifinal matches were fine displays of 20s scoring, with all four players looking comfortable racking up the centres. Walsh would defeat Campbell and Beierling would win over Hutchinson to set up 4th championship encounter between Walsh and Beierling. Walsh won their first encounter in London in 2014, and jumped out to a big lead of 7-1 through 4 rounds. But Beierling (a victor in Owen Sound in 2014, and Hamilton in 2015) responded to lead 9-7. Walsh won the following round to level the first to 11 match at 9-9, where Beierling proved to be better, winning the 2016 Turtle Island Crokinole Tournament.


And with the close of the New York tournament, the NCA Tour pauses for the remainder of the Summer, but will return North of the border in September for the 6th annual Belleville Crokinole Challenge, presented by the Quinte Region Crokinole Club.


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Justin Slater Completes “The Double”

Justin and Fred Slater - 2016 World Doubles Champions
Photo Credit: Bill Gladding
There were many moments when the result didn’t seem clear, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell, and with calm and consistency, Justin Slater took another step in etching his name into crokinole history. A 3rd doubles championship with his father, and a 3rd singles championship in 7 years, in the 18th edition of the largest crokinole tournament in world.

Doubles
As always, the much anticipated crokinole tournament starts with many nervous shots during the preliminary round of the Doubles competition, with teams desperate to score points early and often to make the playoffs. At the end of the 8 preliminary games the playoff field had been set with Justin and Fred Slater earning the high score of 54 points, while Jason and Ray Beierling scored a ridiculous 106 20s (a score more than 20 higher than the next largest 20 count). The teams making the top 6 included:
  • Justin and Fred Slater (2013 and 2014 champions, 6th straight top 6 finish)
  • Jason and Ray Beierling (6-time champions, 4th straight top 6 finish)
  • Jon Conrad and Barry Kiggins (1st top 6 finish as a pair, after both earned world championships with different partners)
  • Abijah and Reuben Jong (1st top 6 finish after winning the Rec. Doubles title in 2015)
  • Kevin Bechtel and Ray Kappes (1st top 6 finish since 2013)
  • Clare Kuepfer and Nathan Walsh (3rd straight top 6 finish)
Jon Conrad (far side) and Barry Kiggins (near) warming up
during the preliminary doubles round.
Photo Credit: CrokinoleDepot
While much is often made of the teams just missing the cutoff for the top playoff bracket, this year was no exception. The teams of Bechtel/Kappes and Kuepfer/Walsh, both scored 46 points to grab the final spots, just beating out Tom Johnston and Ab Leitch, and the team of Roy Campbell and Howard Martin, who each scored 44 points. Those teams would compete for the consolation title in the B playoffs, along with another set of Cameron Heights teachers (Dave Meier and Kevin Brooks), the Quinte father/son duo (Matt and Dave Brown), the Waterloo pair (Alex Protas and Dennis Ernest) and the PEI team (David Younker and Daryl MacDonald).


As a point of interest, the final spot in the B Playoffs, earned by Younker and MacDonald, was enough to edge not one, but two other doubles teams from PEI. Both Lawson Lea and Wilfred Smith, and Robert Weeks and Douglas Neill represented “The Island” contingent well, finishing 13th and 14th respectively.

The B title was won by Tom Johnston and Ab Leitch, who scored 27 points, just beating the 26 points of Matt and Dave Brown.

A collection of crokinole players from PEI.
Photo Credit: Bill Gladding
Shifting back to the A playoffs, with the world title on the line, two teams jumped out of the gate in the 5-game round robin. Justin and Fred Slater, and Jason and Ray Beierling were looking strong, and met head-to-head in the third game. The Slaters would win 6-2, in what would be the decisive moment, as they scored 28 points for 1st place, and their 3rd World Doubles title.

This title moves Justin and Fred Slater into 4th place in all-time World Doubles victories, tied with Tony Snyder, and just behind Jon Conrad (4 titles) and Jason and Ray Beierling (6).

Jason and Ray Beierling ended with 25 points, and a second place finish for a second straight year. Kuepfer and Walsh would finish just behind at 24 points for 3rd place, and Bechtel and Kappes would complete the top 4 at 21 points.


Singles
After the lunch break the main event was set to begin. The preliminary round of 10 games brings with it a fight to advance to the top 16 playoffs, with some keen players keeping an eye on their 20s scores with the hopes of earning some extra hardware.

After the round concluded, the playoff pools were set, as the top 16 separate into two pools of 8.
Pool A
Justin Slater (2015 and 2010 world champion)
Jon Conrad (2012 and 2013 world champion)
Ab Leitch (2008 runner-up, 2009 4th place finisher)
Roger Vaillancourt (2014 8th)
Robert Bonnett (2015 4th)
Nathan Walsh (2009 runner-up, 2014 3rd)
Lawson Lea (2nd top 16 finish)
Brian Simpson (1st top 16 finish since 2009)

Pool B
Tom Johnston (4th in 2011, 2013)
Raymond Kappes (2003 world champion)
Ray Beierling (2011 world champion, 2015 runner-up)
Fred Slater (4th top 16 finish)
Eric Miltenburg (2010 4th)
Barry Kiggins (1st top 16 finish)
Kevin Brooks (1st top 16 finish since 2013)
Randy Harris (1st top 16 finish)

For a moment it appeared that Randy Harris would be the unfortunate 17th place finisher, even after scoring 49 points to be tied with Kevin Brooks in 16th (but lose on the 20s tiebreaker). But due to one qualifier not being able to stick around, Harris was awarded the final spot.

Fate was crueler for Matt Brown and Jason Beierling, both scoring 47 points and 65 20s, and Ezra Jantzi who ended with 46 points, to just miss out on the playoffs.

Speaking of very tight scores, Eric Miltenburg and Lawson Lea ended with identical markers of 51 points and 60 20s. As the exact placing in the preliminary round determines allocations into Pool A or B, there was a need for a 20s Shootout to break the tie. Instead the two decided settle it with a simple coin toss, which placed Miltenburg in Pool B, and Lea in Pool A. (Eric Miltenburg explains the situation, along with an interesting take on 20s scores on the NING website.)
Beverley Vaillancourt - Winner of 2016
Karin Jeske Memorial Trophy
Photo Credit: Bill Gladding


Women’s World Title
With a 23rd place finish overall, after scoring 44 points, Beverley Vaillancourt was once again crowned the Women’s World Champion, winning the Karin Jeske Memorial Trophy for the 4th consecutive year.

The 20s Title
The preliminary round conclusion also determined the World 20s Champion. In what was a low scoring year for 20s, only 6 players totalled at least 70 20s. Jon Conrad, Kevin Brooks, Robert Bonnett and Rob Mader all landed in the 70-79 range, while Ray Kappes scored 89 20s which was good enough for 2nd. But it would be Ray Beierling winning the title with 92 20s, which he strongly believed would not be enough to earn the honour.
Ray Beierling (centre) along with 20s Champions in
Rec. Singles, Leon Wease (left) and Cues Singles
Mark Kuehl (right). Photo Credit: Bill Gladding


The win is an impressive feat for Beierling, as it marks his 6th 20s title, stretching his all-time 20s titles lead, as Justin Slater and Al Fuhr each have 3 to their credit. It was also Beierling’s 4th straight 20s title, going back to 2013, which is clearly the longest 20s title streak in WCC history.

Singles Playoffs
Shifting the focus back to the playoffs, the battle was intense with players looking to finish in the top 2 in their respective groups to move on. In Pool A, a few players started to separate from the rest of the pack, but in the final games, Justin Slater and Nathan Walsh clinched the top spots with 39 points each. Jon Conrad was third in the group with 33 points, and Robert Bonnett was 4th with 29.

In Pool B, Ray Kappes was on fire, scoring 41 points to easily take the top spot. The final spot in the top 4 was a narrow battle between Ray Beierling and Eric Miltenburg, who each scored 34 points. But in the head-to-head match, Beierling won 6-2 and claimed the final spot.

So the Top 4 included: 
  • Justin Slater - reigning Singles Champion, and Doubles victor earlier in the day
  • Ray Beierling - recently crowned 20s Champion, making his 9th Top 4 appearance
  • Ray Kappes - making his first Top 4 Singles finish since winning the World Title in 2003
  • Nathan Walsh - the only member of the Top 4 without a previous Singles title, making his 3rd Top 4 appearance
For the first time ever, each of the Top 4 Singles finishers had finished in the Top 4 during the Doubles competition earlier in the day. A clear sign of how strong play can carry through an entire day of tournament crokinole.

In the Top 4 round-robin, Nathan Walsh jumped out to a fast start, and had earned 11 points through 2 games, while Justin Slater and Ray Beierling had 10 and 8 points respectively. In the final matches, Ray Kappes beat Nathan Walsh 6-2, but Walsh earned all he needed to finish in the top 2, while Slater and Beierling split their game 4-4. That left Slater with 14 points and the top seed, Walsh with 13 points for 2nd, Beierling at 12 points and Kappes at 9. In the “Battle of the Rays” Beierling would win the match for 3rd place, while Kappes would settle for 4th.

Action during Game 2 of the 2016 World Final between
Nathan Walsh (left) and Justin Slater (right)
So the World Final would pit a pair of 23-year-olds against each other, as Justin Slater looked for his 3rd World title, and Nathan Walsh looked for his first. The two had met in NCA tournament finals twice before. In Belleville in 2014, and St. Jacobs in 2014, both matches would go the distance of 3-games, but Slater prevailed in each.

This match began with a flurry of 20s, as Walsh scored 7 in a row, and Slater failed to make his final shot to lose the first round. The roll of 20s would continue for Walsh in round 2, scoring 6 and grabbing a 4-0 lead in game 1. The scoring began to slow down in round 3, but when a Slater misfire resulted in a 20 for Walsh, the lead was insurmountable and Walsh won the first game.

Play was solid and very even in game 2, with both players looking comfortable in winning their rounds with hammer. After 4 rounds, they were tied at 4-4, calling for 5th-round tiebreaker. In what was a wild round of near misses, Walsh had the hammer advantage, but was quickly looking at a cluttered board of Slater discs. With the final shot of the game, Walsh faced 4 opposing discs and could only earn a victory with a tough double takeout. The shot was missed, and Slater had won game 2 6-4, to force a decisive game for the World title.

2016 World Champion, Justin Slater, alongside Top 3
finishers, Ray Beierling and Nathan Walsh
Photo Credit: Bill Gladding
In game 3, Slater convincingly scored 20s in the first round to go up 2-0. Slater was equally as strong in the second round, and won the 2 points against the hammer to make it 4-0, one point from the title. In the third round, Slater quickly converted a few 20 opportunities and won the game 6-0, to clinch the 2016 World Crokinole Championship title.

With the win, Justin Slater stands with Joe Fulop at 3 Singles titles, and just behind Brian Cook at a total of 4. His feat of winning the Doubles and Singles title in the same year (being coined as “The Double”), matches the achievement of Jon Conrad in 2012.


And with that, the crokinole season rounds to a close, with many players putting their crokinole boards away, save for a few rainy summer days or cottage vacations. That is of course, only until the 2016 Turtle Island Crokinole Tournament in Lewiston, New York on July 30th, when the NCA Tour picks up again for its 9th season.

Friday, 10 June 2016

2016 World Crokinole Championship - Fantasy Pool Results



Well it was quite a day for crokinole last Saturday, and there will be more analysis and video to follow, but first we have to hand out the final prize of the World Crokinole tournament.

And that prize is the winner of the 2nd Annual Crokinole Fantasy Pool.

I want to thank everyone who was spreading the word about the pool and promoting the idea. 35 entries were received, and that’s due to a good number of people being directed over to the NCA booth to submit a team.

Posted below are the top 10 finishers. (If you would like your own score and position, please send me a message.)

And the winner is . . . 

Rank
Team
Pts
Group A
Group B
Group C
Group D
1
Roy Campbell
580
Justin Slater Matt Brown Ab Leitch Eric Miltenburg
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Fred Slater Barry Kiggins
2
Jon Conrad
570
Justin Slater Robert Bonnett Ab Leitch Eric Miltenburg
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Clare Kuepfer Barry Kiggins
3
Nathan Walsh
560
Justin Slater Ray Kappes Fred Slater Peter Tarle
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Kevin Bechtel Barry Kiggins
3
Ray Beierling
560
Justin Slater Ray Kappes Ab Leitch Eric Miltenburg
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Clare Kuepfer Dwayne Campbell
5
Andrew Hutchinson
540
Justin Slater Tom Johnston Ab Leitch Eric Miltenburg
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Clare Kuepfer Bev Vaillancourt
6
Matt Brown
530
Justin Slater Tom Johnston Ab Leitch Peter Tarle
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Howard Martin Eric Miltenburg
7
Jason Beierling
525
Justin Slater Ray Kappes Ab Leitch Bev Vaillancourt
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Kevin Bechtel David Younker
8
Cathy Kuepfer
500
Jon Conrad Matt Brown Clare Kuepfer Eric Miltenburg
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Fred Slater Bev Vaillancourt
8
Randy Harris
500
Jon Conrad Tom Johnston Randy Harris Ron Haymes
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Fred Slater Eric Miltenburg
10
Robert Bonnett
495
Justin Slater Matt Brown Reuben Jong Eric Miltenburg
Ray Beierling Nathan Walsh Howard Martin Peter Tarle


Roy Campbell wins the title with 580 points, narrowly ahead of Jon Conrad in second, and Nathan Walsh and Ray Beierling tied in third.

For his prominent prediction powers, Roy Campbell will win a T-Shirt compliments of CrokinoleDepot

Further Analysis
With so many more entries this year, along with the ability to make selections up until the final minute, there were a lot interesting things to note.

1. While Nathan Walsh, Ray Beierling and Jason Beierling were all able to correctly select the top 4 finishers in the event, Roy Campbell amassed enough points for first place by being the only person to have all 8 selection finish in the top 20.

2. There were quite a few Merv Wice fans in attendance. As many as 3 entries were submitted with such bold confidence that Merv Wice was the one and only pick on the entire team.

3. Most of the people who made initial online team selections were over-written with a new ballot on the day of. Jon Conrad was one of the few to stick with his initial picks, and it impressively resulted in a 2nd place result.

4. Out of all of the selections, Ray Beierling was the most popular choice, being chosen on 19 different entries. Just behind Ray was Justin Slater, appearing on 17 entries.

5. The most popular choices from Group B were Nathan Walsh and Matt Brown. From Group C, Clare Kuepfer, Ab Leitch and Fred Slater were selected numerous times. Meanwhile, Group D had many varied selections, but Eric Miltenburg was a common choice.

6. The top 2 teams (Campbell and Conrad), earned a significant number points from their Group D selections of Eric Miltenburg and Barry Kiggins. Both players had extremely strong showings at the tournament, finishing 5th and 12th respectively.

7. Credit has to be given to some of the underdog stories of the tournament. To the detriment of most fantasy team selections, the following players made the top 16, but were not chosen on more than 2 teams: Randy Harris, Kevin Brooks, and Lawson Lea.

8. In case you were wondering, Roy Campbell’s score of 580 was only 40 points away from the best possible team selection, which was:
Group A - Justin Slater (1st), Ray Beierling (3rd)
Group B - Nathan Walsh (2nd), Ray Kappes (4th)
Group C - Randy Harris (9th), Kevin Brooks (11th)
Group D - Eric Miltenburg (5th), Barry Kiggins (12th)
That team would have earned 620 points.

So congratulations to Roy Campbell. His title of 2016 Crokinole Fantasy Champion did not come easy with so many entries, but he has earned bragging rights until next year (and the aforementioned CrokinoleDepot T-Shirt).

Thanks again to all for participating. Let me know if you have any suggestions to make it better in 2017.