Sunday 24 March 2019

Hutchinson Edges Bonnett in London for 2nd Title

There was no doubt about the strength of Andrew Hutchinson’s game, returning to the London event for his first crokinole tournament after winning his first NCA title in November. He was tested in the morning with a very difficult draw, to which he qualified out of with ease, then proceeded to dominate his afternoon matches until facing a nearly flawless Robert Bonnett in the finals. But he proceeded unflinchingly, even overcoming a deficit in the very final round to win the 2019 Forest City Flickers final by a score of 10-8.

52 flickers entered the Saint James Westminster Church in London for the 11th edition of the crokinole event, dating back to 2009, with 31 on the competitive side and 21 in the recreational.

In the morning groups, Jo-Ann Carter led the Recreational A pool with 50 points and 52 20s in 8 games. Mark Gallas was behind in second with 48 points, and followed by Mark Geris, Janet Diebel and Dallas Fewster. Ron Langill led the Recreational B pool in the morning with 54 points and 58 20s in 9 games, followed closely by Rich Vanden Hoven at 52 points, and then by Bill Geris, Cor Vanden Hoven and Doreen Sulkye making the afternoon A group on the Recreational side.

The competitive pools were split into 3 in the morning, and Connor Reinman, who was playing in his first NCA event since October and said to be ramping up his preparation for the World Championships, led the A pool by a decent margin with 55 points and 89 20s in 9 games. Ray Beierling scored 49 points and Nolan Tracey scored 43 to make the afternoon A group, edging out Bev Vaillancourt who had 40 points.

The competitive B pool seemed to be by far the most challenging group, featuring 4 of the top 7 in the current NCA standings, along with a few more strong NCA non-regulars. Nathan Walsh had a terrific morning with what averaged to 58.5 points and 86.6 20s over 9 games, followed by Andrew Hutchinson at 48 points and Jason Beierling at 45. Jeremy Tracey and Rex Johnston fell victim to the strong group and had to settle for the B group with 42 and 41.6 points respectively.

In the C pool, Jon Conrad was true to form, leading the way in points despite a lower 20 count, with 51 points and 63 20s. Roy Campbell and Robert Bonnett rounded out the top 3 with 46 and 45 points, while Reid Tracey scored 43 points, which was enough to grab the sole wildcard spot in the A group for the afternoon. This was just two points higher than Robbie Thuot at 41 points, who was looking to make the A group for the second event in a row.

The afternoon Recreational B Group was led by Lola Vanderheide who scored 45 points in 9 games, and was joined in the playoffs by Maxine Whitmore, Al Hoftyzer and Pat Weiler. However in the playoffs it was Pat Weiler who overcame the 4th seed to win the group.

In the A Group, Ron Langill was top of the table again, with 51 points in 9 games. Cor Vanden Hoven scored 46 to finish second, with Jo-Ann Carter right behind at 44. Bill Geris scored 42 points to finish 4th and get the final playoff spot, just ahead of Mark Geris at 41 points. The “first to 9 points” semifinals were very tight with both being decided by scores of 10-8 as Carter defeated Vanden Hoven and Langill defeated Geris. In the finals Ron Langill completed a day in which he led from the morning to the very finish, winning the final 10-4 over Jo-Ann Carter.

In the competitive C Group, Tom Johnston had the top score with 50 points in 9 games. Peter Carter and Howard Martin both scored 45 points to finish 2nd and 3rd and setup their playoff semifinal, while Josh Davis scored 41 points and held the head-to-head tiebreaker over MJ Andreola for the final playoff spot. Johnston and Carter advanced to the finals, following their semifinal victories, where Tom Johnston won the match to take the C title.

In the B Group, Fred Slater looked quite strong, scoring 46 points in 9 games for the top seed, just ahead of Christina Campbell who racked up 44 points. Jeremy Tracey scored 42 points and earned the high 20 score in the group with 75. Bev Vaillancourt earned the final playoff spot with 39 points, just two ahead of Rex Johnston and Andrew Korchok. Slater scored a 9-5 semifinal victory over Vaillancourt, while Tracey found momentum late to win over Campbell 10-8, which he carried through into the final match, defeating Slater 10-2.

There was an oddity in the competitive A Group with all three pool leaders from the morning missing the cut for the final 4. Instead it was Andrew Hutchinson making his 5th straight top 4 with 52 points in 9 games for the top seed, and hometown Ray Beierling finding the 2nd seed with 47 points. Robert Bonnett followed up his 3rd place in Owen Sound with 41 points to make the final four again, while Reid Tracey, for the third-straight tournament, earned the 4th seed and advanced to the playoffs (although this time it wasn’t by virtue of a tiebreaker). Roy Campbell finished on the bubble in 5th place with 36 points.

The semifinal, and also what would be the finals, matchups were all first-time meetings in elimination games, although it was an identical final 4 to that of the 2018 Owen Sound event. The Hutchinson/Tracey matchup was notable for Hutchinson electing for defensive strategies on two occasions as he chose to hide discs rather than push for 20s, which ultimately ended up being profitable in a 9-3 victory. The Bonnett/Beierling match would also be a 9-3 victory for Bonnett who capitalized when given a few different chances to score some crucial follow-through 20s. In the 3rd-place game, Reid Tracey took a spirited affair by a score of 10-8 over Ray Beierling, to earn 3rd place and his highest ever finish at an NCA event.

So all that was left was the finals between Robert Bonnett and Andrew Hutchinson. For Bonnett, it was his second NCA final (the first being the 2017 World Championships), and for Hutchinson it was his fourth NCA final, with both men seeking their second crokinole title. Hutchinson led 6-2 and had threatened to take an even more commanding lead in the 6th round when he led in the 20 count but faced 3 opposing discs. He lined up a triple takeout on his final shot that was ultimately unsuccessful, allowing Bonnett to tie the match 6-6.

Both responded well in their respective hammer rounds, capitalizing on first shot misses from their opponents to send the match to 8-8 with it all coming down to one round for the title. In the final round, advantages swung to Bonnett as Hutchinson was the first to miss. However, in Bonnett’s attempt to add to his 20 count, he left a hanger 20, which Hutchinson converted to level the round. After Bonnett missed the open 20 on his 7th shot, Hutchinson stuck his disc perfectly in front of a peg, leaving Bonnett no chance for a takeout-20, clinching the 10-8 thriller victory for Hutchinson as he won the 2019 London title.

It’s worth noting that Hutchinson’s remarkable string of strong results this season has been near perfect, and has only seen him lose on a couple occasions to Ray Beierling and Justin Slater.
  • 2018 WCC - Hutchinson finishes 5th after Justin Slater and Ray Beierling take the top two spots in the Round of 16 A Pool
  • 2018 Turtle Island - Hutchinson defeated in semifinal by Slater
  • 2018 Belleville - Hutchinson defeated in semifinal by Slater
  • 2018 ODCC - Hutchinson/Reinman defeated in semifinal by Beierling/Beierling
  • 2018 Owen Sound - Hutchinson wins event
  • 2019 London - Hutchinson wins event

So the victory gives Andrew Hutchinson back-to-back crokinole victories, sandwiching the birth of his second child in what has been a very impressive NCA season that now sees him tied for 3rd in the NCA standings with the potential to finish as high as 2nd. With both Ray Beierling and Jason Beierling denied victories in London, Justin Slater has clinched the 2018-2019 NCA Tour Championship. It’s the first time in the 11-year history of the NCA Tour that the Tour title has been wrapped up prior to the final event.* 

*There’s a significant asterisk considering that the NCA Tour has had numerous different point structures over the years. Additionally, while other titles weren’t completely clinched before the Tour finale, some years only a very specific scenario could have unfolded to result in the leader being surpassed in the final tournament.

The next NCA event on the calendar is the 2019 Ontario Singles Crokinole Championship on May 4th in St. Jacobs, but before that, the 27th edition of the invitational team Waterloo County Crokinole tournament will take place at the Schneider Haus museum in Kitchener on April 13th.

1 comment: