Saturday, 15 December 2018

Hutchinson takes First Crown in Owen Sound

Photo Credit: Clare Kuepfer
When Andrew Hutchinson began to build the bridge between the cue and finger islands of the crokinole landscape, he brought with it an affinity for pink button down shirts, a large and unusual vocabulary of crokinole terms, and a comically high frequency of 5th place finishes. Already the most accomplished cues/fingers hybrid on the crokinole circuit, in Owen Sound Andrew Hutchinson joined the ranks of NCA title holders by earning a stellar victory over Ray Beierling in the final.

The Scenic City Crokinole Classic always brings a large hometown contingent, along with a well structured team of organizers, that reflect the plentiful number of crokinole clubs in the region. Total competitors were up slightly to 55 this year, even despite some last minute cancellations, with 21 players taking part in the competitive singles, and another 17 teams in the recreational doubles event.

In the morning play, Andrew Hutchinson qualified in first place with 59 points and a tournament high 111 20s through 10 games (including the only perfect round of the morning in his match against Nolan Tracey). Ray Beierling was just behind with 58 points and 96 20s, followed by Jeremy Tracey and Robert Bonnett. Grabbing the final spot in Pool A for the afternoon was Jo-Ann Carter with 40 points, just edging out Bob Jones who scored 38 points, and made two spectacular shots in his morning game against Jeremy Tracey. 

The Recreational Doubles category featured a round robin with the top scores determining the final results. Kingston’s Wayne and Jennifer Scott finished 6th with 65 points. Brayden Kelner and Noah Buckrell earned 5th place with 75 points in their first NCA event. They were just behind Neil and Carol Cook scoring 76 points for 4th, and Dave McCormick and Darren Carr who scored 78 points for 3rd. The battle for top spot was remarkable as Perry and Peter Carter and John Lichty and Ron Langill matched each other stride for stride, and both ended the day with 84 points. The tiebreaker, and the tournament title, went to the first time partnership of John Lichty and Ron Langill, thanks to their mark of 101 20s, superior to the 81 from the Carters.

In the afternoon session, Pool B was led by Eric Miltenburg, who’s 55 points easily pushed him into the top spot. Behind him were Howard Martin (47 points), Bob Jones (46) and Ron Reesor (44) to advance to the final four. Dale Henry found himself in the undesired 5th place spot, but with a not-so-desolating gap of 5 points from the playoff cutoff.

The Pool B winner was decided with a final four round robin. Howard Martin, Bob Jones and Ron Reesor all traded victories among themselves, making for a tight grouping. But Eric Miltenburg continued his supremacy, winning each game 6-2 to take the Pool B title. Bob Jones would finish 2nd with 11 points, ahead of Ron Reesor at 10, and Howard Martin at 8.

In Pool A, a group of 3 clearly separated themselves as the best in the bunch, while another group of 3 couldn’t manage to find any separation between themselves at all. Ray Beierling earned the top spot with 54 points through 10 games. Andrew Hutchinson and Robert Bonnett filed in behind at 52 points each. Ray Beierling’s 99 20s were the best score of the group, just ahead of 98 20s from Hutchinson, but it was Hutchinson who once again scored the only perfect round when he did so against Clare Kuepfer. 

It was a gap of 8 points until the 4th and final spot in the playoffs, and it was Reid Tracey, Jeremy Tracey and Nathan Walsh who all tied at 44 points. In their head-to-head games, Jeremy Tracey had earned a 5-3 victory over Walsh, but had been beaten 8-0 by Reid Tracey, and Reid’s playoff birth was secured with a 4-4 tie to Walsh.
Finishing 8th in his first NCA event was Joe Klages, who put on an impressive debut, highlighted by . . . well a string of highlight shots in his second round game against Jon Conrad. 

Clare Kuepfer and Nolan Tracey also made some highlights as they traded follow-through 20s in their second round match.

So the final 4 round robin was set. Ray Beierling was making his 3rd straight final 4 in Owen Sound, and 5th in 6 attempts at the tournament. Robert Bonnett was making his 2nd final 4 in Owen Sound, and his first final 4 appearance since the 2017 World Championships, while Reid Tracey found himself in his first ever top 4. 

And for Andrew Hutchinson, it was his first final 4 in Owen Sound. In 2015 he had made his fingers debut and won Pool B: a terrific start. In 2016 he finished 5th for the first time in his NCA career: clearly he was on a mission to exercise demons.

The Final 4 round robin games began in a deadlocked fashion with Beierling/Tracey and Bonnett/Hutchinson both drawing 4-4. Beierling then edged into first place with a 6-2 win over Bonnett, while Hutchinson and Tracey tied their game, leaving everything to play for in the final game of the round robin.

Hutchinson earned a 3rd straight draw to Beierling to finish with 12 points, sitting behind Beierling’s 14, and only able to advance if Bonnett and Tracey tied, or if Bonnett beat Tracey 5-3. Bonnett led his final game against Tracey 5-1, but Tracey managed to pull out the last 2 points, causing both Bonnett and Tracey to finish at 11 points, and setting up a Hutchinson vs Beierling final.

The spread of 14 points in 1st, to 11 points in 4th was incredibly tight, but in fact it wasn’t the closest top 4 round robin that crokinole has seen. In 2016, the Owen Sound C Pool was won by Derek McKie with 13 points, while the other 3 players scored 12, 12 and 11 points. Making a tournament final after drawing 3 straight games also isn’t unheard of in Owen Sound, as Nathan Walsh accomplished the feat in 2014, before being defeated by Ray Beierling in the final.

Amazingly, coming into the match, Ray Beierling and Andrew Hutchinson had already played each other 5 times in elimination games. Hutchinson won the first meeting, but since Beierling had earned 4 straight victories. 

Beierling v Hutchinson H2H

The first to 11 points final began beautifully for Hutchinson, as he made several hangar 20s that were left by Ray Beierling in the first round, to open the match with a steal of 2 points. Hutchinson would similarly get the edge in the second round thanks to a hangar 20 to extend his advantage to 4-0. 

Ray Beierling would get on the board in the 3rd round after getting an early open 20 miss from Hutchinson, which he successfully defended. The next 3 rounds would proceed similarly with the first shooting player missing first, and the hammer holding solidly without too much drama, leading to an 8-4 Hutchinson scoreline.

Round 7 would prove to be pivotal, as Ray Beierling, trailing in the 20 count, pressed hard for a follow-through 20 that ultimately came up short. Hutchinson, perhaps showing some nerves, got a roughly-hit hangar 20 to go, but then promptly eliminated all the nerves on his next shot, scoring a terrific follow-through 20 of his own to go up 10-4. Hutchinson would clinch the match in the next round following a couple more hangar 20 conversions, to win the match and the Scenic City Crokinole Classic, 12-4.

So Andrew Hutchinson follows in the paths of Louis Gauthier (2013) and Roy Campbell (2015), who both also won their first NCA titles at the Scenic City Crokinole Classic, while Ray Beierling unfortunately finishes as the runner-up for the 3rd year in a row, following those two spectacular finals he had against Jon Conrad in 2016 and 2017.

While Hutchinson doesn’t own the NCA record for 5th place finishes, since he joined the NCA Tour, no one has been 5th more often. But with Hutchinson winning his first NCA title at the site of his first 5th place finish, are the 5th place demons now gone? Time will have to tell.

NCA Tournament 5th Place Finishes
# 5th Place Finishes
Since Fall 2015
Andrew Hutchinson
Clare Kuepfer
Eric Miltenburg
Fred Slater
Jason Beierling
Jon Conrad
Nathan Walsh
Ray Beierling
Rex Johnston

The next NCA Tour stop is in January of 2019, when the crokinole crowd heads to land where 20s grow on trees: Hamilton, Ontario. For the 2018-2019 Tour, only 3 events remain. Justin Slater leads the pack, but both Ray Beierling and Jason Beierling are one tournament victory away from drawing dead even at the top of pack, while Andrew Hutchinson, Roy Campbell and Jeremy Tracey all eye their career-best Tour finishes in 2019.

2018-2019 NCA Tour Standings
Justin Slater
Ray Beierling
Jason Beierling
Andrew Hutchinson
Roy Campbell
Jeremy Tracey

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Beierlings defeat Slaters in Nail-Biter for Ontario Championship

In recent history, the discussion of the best doubles team in crokinole was centred around 2 teams. While Conrad & (insert partner) consistently had impressive performances, the solidified partnerships of Ray and Jason Beierling, and Fred and Justin Slater, have by far the best resumes. And as they did in 2014 and 2016, these two distinguished teams met in the final to determine the Ontario Doubles Champions.

The Brucefield United Church hosted the provincial event, which featured a record-tying attendance of 58 players, with 14 competitive teams and 15 recreational doubles teams.

The competitive doubles teams played a full round robin of 13 games, with the first 7 games taking place in the morning. Roy Campbell and Jeremy Tracey, fresh off a 2nd place World Championship finish, had the best start, scoring 44 points, and they were followed closely by the Beierling’s at 40 points. 

Sitting tied for 3rd at the halfway point were Connor Reinman/Andrew Hutchinson and Cor Vanden Hoven/Ron Reesor, both at 36 points. Sitting 4 points back of the playoff spots were the teams of Justin Slater/Fred Slater, Clare Kuepfer/Neil Cook, and Dwayne Campbell/Christina Campbell, who all had 32 points looking to gain ground in the afternoon. Also not too far out of the playoff mix were the brother teams of Reid Tracey/Nolan Tracey and Tom Johnston/Rex Johnston, who were tied for 8th at 30 points.

In the afternoon the Recreational division had been split top-half/bottom-half based on the morning performance. In the B division, the team of Eileen Bell and Wayne Bell, and Carmen Hodgkinson and Evelyn Hodgkinson scored well with 27 and 30 points respectively, but neither was enough to make it into the finals. Doreen Sulkye and Marilyn Thompson earned the top seed with 34 points, while the tournament-debut of Garret Tracey and Ernie Lightfoot led to the second seed at 31 points. In the “first to 9 points” final, Sulkye and Thompson used the hammer advantage to scrap out a narrow 10-8 victory.
In the Recreational A division, several new partnerships led to high scores with Peter Carter and Perry Carter scoring 33 points for 3rd place, while Ron Langill and John Lichty scored 36 points for 2nd. Meanwhile, the Vanden Hovens, Rich and Tony, finished 1st with 39 points to claim the other spot in the final. While not as thrilling as the 10-8 finish in the B division, the final had its moments of excitement before Rich Vanden Hoven and Tony Vanden Hoven won the match.

In the competition division, the Slaters had the strongest afternoon with 37 points in 6 games, propelling them up to 3rd place and a spot in the semifinals. The Beierlings scored 34 points to Campbell/Tracey’s 30 points, leading to a tie for 1st at 74 points. The Beierlings earned the first seed by way of head-to-head tiebreaker. Connor Reinman and Andrew Hutchinson finished with 32 points in the afternoon, for a total of 68 points and the 4th seed for the semifinals. Missing the playoffs, that left Reesor/Vanden Hoven in 5th place as they totalled 64 points, and Kuepfer/Cook in 6th place as they finished with 60 points.

Strangely the 2018 semi-finals were nearly a perfect match to that of 2017:
  • the top seeded team of Ray and Jason Beierling playing the 4th seed of Connor Reinman and partner
  • the 2nd seed of Jeremy Tracey and Roy Campbell playing the 3rd seed of Justin and Fred Slater

The only non-constant between the two years was the partner of Reinman, which was Nathan Walsh in 2017 (who partnered with Gloria Walsh in 2018), now swapped out for Andrew Hutchinson (who needed a new partner to substitute for the vacationing Jon Conrad).

Curiously the similarities continued in the Slater/Slater v Campbell/Tracey semifinal. Just as in 2017, the 2018 match began with Campbell/Tracey holding their first hammer for a 2-0 lead, which was followed by Slater/Slater winning the next 8 points for an 8-2 lead in the “first to 9” match. The 2018 match saw the Slaters gain early leads in nearly every round, forcing their opponents to make tough shots to come back. What was somewhat unusual for the aggressive, creative and shot-making pair of Campbell/Tracey, was that they struggled to score takeout-20s in those rounds to level the score. The Slaters held their hammer and won the 6th round of the match to make the Ontario final for the 3rd straight year.

In Reinman’s 2017 semifinal with the Beierlings, he and Walsh were able to sweep the match 10-0, and Reinman began the 2018 semifinal in that direction as he and Hutchinson (both choosing to sport University of Michigan sweaters on the day) made it 2-0 against the hammer. Reinman/Hutchinson had the edge in the 2nd round as well, but the turning point was when Jason Beierling protracted a disc into the 20 from the farthest edge of the board (so far that they needed a flash light measure), on the way to winning the round for 2-2. 

The following rounds fed into the bread-and-butter of Ray Beierling’s game with many Open 20s scored that all favoured the Beierlings on their way to an 8-2 lead. In the 6th round, the Beierlings just needing one more point, left their final disc hidden beyond the pegs on the far side of the board. Hutchinson, needing a takeout and stick, took a good amount of time to compose himself and successfully made the shot for 8-4.

Down early in the 7th round, Hutchinson scored an amazing ricochet and peg-rub 20 (the star shot on what was one of many terrific shots for Hutchinson in the match; the full video for that one is going to be great). However, the Beierlings stayed extremely well focussed and made every Open 20 they needed to close out the match 10-4.

And so the final was set for Slater/Slater v Beierling/Beierling, with the winner to earn another point in their favour for who is the best doubles team in crokinole. Both teams have had strong recent performances at the World Championships, with the Slaters winning 3 times and finishing in the top 4 5 times since 2012. While the Beierlings have made the top 4 at the World Championships every year since 2013, and picked up the 2018 title. At the ODCC, the Slaters three prior appearances resulted in 2 2nds, and one victory, to go along with what was now their 4th overall, and 3rd straight finals appearance. For the Beierlings, now all 9 years of the ODCC resulted in top 4 finishes, with 4 victories, and 2018 being their 7th trip to the finals.

It’s only fair in this “best team in recent history” discussion to mention Tony Snyder and Jon Conrad, who have 2 wins and a 2nd place finish at the WCC, along with a 2nd and 3rd place from the ODCC. And, while stretching the definition of “recent history” it would be thorough to mention the team of Fred Slater and Brian Cook, who went a perfect 3 for 3 in ODCC appearances, and even added a provincial British Columbia doubles title to their record.

Getting back to the 2018 championship match, it was the third head-to-head finals match of Beierlings v Slaters, with the Beierlings winning 2014, and the Slaters in 2016 (apparently Jason Beierling was breaking down video footage of the 2016 match the prior evening).

The first two rounds of the “first to 11 points” final went against the hammer. Lots of 20s were scored in the 3rd round, but Ray Beierling’s follow through 20 that bounced off a peg was decisive as the Beierlings held their hammer for 4-2.

The 4th round saw lots of interesting positional shots and discussion, including lots of whispering from a large and engaged crowd that stuck around to watch the final. The Beierlings had an extra 20, but the Slaters had 2 discs on the board. Jason’s final takeout and roll attempt lost the shooter, leaving a Slater 5 and an open board for Justin on the final shot. He’d just missed for a 15, tying the round; 5-3 for the Beierlings.

The Slaters would make it 5-5, and despite being down in the 20 count, put on significant pressure. Twice Justin left discs perfectly next to the peg forcing Ray to just tap. Justin Slater then scored a follow through 20 that would narrow the gap enough for the Slaters to tie the round and make the match 6-6.

Interesting strategy choices and execution errors were the themes of the 7th and 8th rounds. The Beierlings missed a a tap-up-assist play in the 7th round that took the pressure off the Slaters, as they led 8-6. But in the 8th round, Fred Slater’s attempt to spoil a hangar 20 chance for the opponents, led to him removing all of his discs on the board. Once Jason Beierling scored the crucial open 20 on the next shot, the Beierlings were well on their way to 8-8.

After making it 10-8, the Beierlings were only one point away from the title and secured an early lead in the 10th round. They then used some great disc placement to prevent a comeback, and took the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship 12-8.

With the win, Ray and Jason Beierling tie Fred Slater’s record with 4 Ontario Doubles titles. Also, 2018 marks the 3rd straight year that the Doubles World Champion(s) have went on to win the Ontario Doubles tournament immediately after (Slaters in 2016, Nathan Walsh in 2017, Beierling in 2018).

The victory and tournament results are also significant for the NCA Tour. Justin Slater now has 197 points (3 victories and a 2nd place finish), followed by Jason Beierling at 190 (2 victories, 2nd, 4th) and Ray Beierling at 184 (2 victories, 3rd, 7th). Roy Campbell and Andrew Hutchinson are currently rounding out the top 5 on the Tour, with the next stop being the 2017 Scenic City Crokinole Classic in Owen Sound on November 24th.

Sunday, 7 October 2018

J. Slater defeats J. Beierling in Belleville

The 2018 calendar year has been one of Justin Slater’s best, which is saying something for a player of his calibre and resume. Coming into Belleville, Slater had won the singles events in Hamilton, London, St. Jacobs, the World Championships, and Turtle Island: 5 victories in 6 events. The single blemish being a 2nd place finish in Kitchener at the Joseph Schneider Haus event. The winner of that event, by just one single point over Slater, was Jason Beierling, and the two would meet again in the finals of the 2018 Belleville Crokinole Challenge.

The Quinte Region Crokinole Club (QRCC) welcomed 38 players from Kingston, Oshawa, Toronto, Kitchener, London, Owen Sound, Hamilton and Penetanguishene. Chris Gorsline opened up the day with some scripted comments on rules and tournament format, mixed in with off-the-cuff humour, and then play began.

Fred Slater led all morning scores with 62 points and 91 20s in 10 games, with Nathan Walsh finishing 2nd with 61 points, and Justin Slater finishing 3rd with an adjusted 10-game score of 60 points (by virtue of the rotation some players only played 9 games, Slater scored 54 points in those 9 games). The top 20 score of the morning round came from Roger Vaillancourt who scored 98 20s through 9 games (equivalent to 109 20s through 10 games).

The top 13 scores from the morning advanced to Pool A for the afternoon, which included several NCA-regulars with a long resume of crokinole success, and tournament rookies Tim Burgess and John Wood, who made a strong impression and quickly became players to watch out for. Also making the afternoon A pool were the Tracey trio (Jeremy, Reid and Nolan), which was impressive considering all 3 were placed into the same pool in the morning round.

John McFeeters, Peter Tarle and Shirley Sager just missed the Pool A cutoff (McFeeters by 2 points, Tarle and Sager by 3), while Clare Kuepfer grabbed the 13th and final spot in Pool A with 48 points in 10 games. The cutoff for Pool B also saw a couple players just missing out with Jo-Ann Carter earning the final spot with 36 points in 10 games, beating out Barrie Wood by 2 points, and Dave Brown by 3 points.

In the afternoon, Pool C was led by Len Chard at 51 points and 63 20s in 9 games. Bob Leggett grabbed the 2nd seed with 49 points, Peter Klaassen was 3rd with 45 points, and tournament rookie Maradyn Wood earned the final playoff spot with 43.2 points (48 points in 10 games, adjusted down to 9). For the second time in the day, Dave Brown just missed the cutoff, finishing 5th with 39 points.

In Pool B, it was Eric Miltenburg, playing for the first time representing the flag of the Quinte Club, earning the top seed with 53 points in 10 games. Peter Tarle was second with 51 points and a group-high 78 20s, with Chris Gorsline closely behind at 49 points. And the final semifinal spot was earned by John McFeeters at 43 points, edging out the 41 points of Brian Miltenburg.

The A pool was led by Jason Beierling, who scored 51 points in 9 games (adjust to 56.7 points in 10 games), followed by Justin Slater at 53 points. Andrew Hutchinson scored 43 points in 9 games (equivalent to 47.77 over 10 games), while Nathan Walsh earned the 4th seed with 47 points. The 5th and 6th place spots were close behind with Jeremy Tracey at a 10-game adjusted score of 45.55 points, and Fred Slater at 45 points.

The 20s scores were somewhat incredible in Pool A with Walsh scoring 115 20s, including his 2nd perfect round of the tournament, but that was only the 3rd highest 20 score in the pool. Ray Beierling, who finished 7th, scored 105 20s in 9 games, which normalizes to 117 20s in 10 games, and Jason Beierling scored 118 20s in 9 games, which translates to a huge 131 20s. Truly some fantastic 20s scores for being very early in the crokinole season.

After a quick explainer of the Quinte Convention, the semifinals were able to get underway. For those unaware, the Quinte Convention was first introduced in 2012, and although it’s had some tweaks has generally stayed true to form. While opinions on playoff formats vary greatly between individuals, it’s generally acknowledged that the Quinte Convention, and the Belleville tournament, was the first event to remove the advantage of hammer in a head-to-head match. (To explain further: under the World Championship final format, 2 perfectly equal opponents will eventually find themselves tied with only one tiebreaker round to play. In that instance, one player has the inherent, and some would argue unfair, advantage of having an extra round with the hammer advantage.)

The Quinte playoff format is a best 2 out of 3 games, but each game only plays a maximum of 4 rounds, meaning it is possible for a game to end in a tie at 4-4. If after 3 games the players are tied (either by drawing all 3 games 4-4, or by drawing one game 4-4 and each winning one of the other 2 games), the match proceeds to the Quinte Convention tiebreaker. The tiebreaker involves pairs of 2 rounds being played, so each player has the hammer once. If, after a pair of rounds is completed, the score is either 3-1 or 4-0, the match is over. If the score is 2-2, then another pair of 2 rounds is played. A maximum of 4 pairs of rounds (a total of 8 extra rounds) is played, and if still tied the match ends via a 20 shootout (which has yet to be required in the history of the Quinte Convention).

In the C Pool semifinals, Len Chard progressed 6-2, 6-0 against Maradyn Wood, while Peter Klaassen defeated Bob Leggett 6-0, 5-3. In the finals, Len Chard emerged victorious, winning 4-4, 6-2, 4-4 over Klaassen.

In Pool B, Peter Tarle defeated Chris Gorsline 5-1, 6-2, while Eric Miltenburg and John McFeeters required the Quinte Convention to determine a winner. McFeeters won the first game 5-3 and led 4-0 in game 2, before Miltenburg staved off elimination by winning the next 4 points to tie game 2 4-4, and then send the match to extra rounds with a 6-2 game 3 win. Miltenburg prevailed in the first set of extra rounds 4-0 to make the final. Peter Tarle won the final match by a score of 4-4, 6-2, 4-2 (having already secured the match by earning at least a tie in the 3rd game) to win Pool B and the Reg Chisholm Memorial trophy.

The A Pool semifinals saw Andrew Hutchinson and Justin Slater facing off in a rematch of their Turtle Island semifinal from one month ago, while Jason Beierling and Nathan Walsh played each for the first time in a singles playoff encounter. Hutchinson and Slater played a brilliantly tied match, with Hutchinson winning game one 6-2, and Slater winning game two by the same score. In game 3, Hutchinson won the first 2 points against the hammer, only to have Slater return the favour and then lead 4-2 threatening to take the match. But Hutchinson pulled out the final round to tie it 4-4. The first pair of extra rounds was split 2-2, before Slater won the final pair 4-0 to make the final.

In the other semifinal, it looked like one-way traffic for a while with Walsh leading 5-1, 4-0, but Jason Beierling came back from the brink to make game 2 4-4. Walsh then won the first round of game 3, and needing only a 3rd game tie, was 2 points from the finals. But again Beierling fought back, winning the next 3 rounds to take game 3 6-2, and then winning first set of extra rounds to make the final (5 rounds "on the trot" as they would say in England).

It was Jason Beierling’s and Justin Slater’s first meeting in a singles final, with their last playoff meeting being the St. Jacobs semifinal won 10-6 by Slater. Game 1 saw both players play their first hammer rounds solidly for a score of 2-2, and then saw both players trade costly errors leading to 2 steals for a 4-4 tie to game 1. In game 2, Slater was very opportunistic and converted each of the few hangar 20 opportunities that were left to him, and after a steal and 2 hammer holds, Slater had won game 2 6-0.

The tension built in game 3, with Beierling accumulating a couple of discs on the board following Slater errors. Slater scored a touch-20 and was rewarded when Beierling’s open 20 shot slipped through the house. However, only up one 20, Slater faced two opposing discs on his final shot. After a long analysis Slater’s shot resulted in only a single-takeout and a missed 20. Beierling made the successful hit and stick to lead 2-0. Round 2 was more structured with Beierling missing an early 20 and Slater comfortably maintaining the lead throughout the round to make it 2-2. Beierling, now facing elimination, won the 3rd round in a similar fashion with superior 20 scoring even when facing pressure after Slater scored a touch 20 to take what was a temporary 20 lead. 

In the fourth round, Slater needing 2 points to win the title, Beierling missed his first open 20, but immediately scored a follow-through 20 to get back on track. Slater answered strongly with a couple open 20s until Beierling missed short on his 4th shot and was again looking for takeout-20 opportunities. One came later on this 6th shot when he expertly took out a disc in-between the pegs and had his shooter rebound perfectly off the peg into the 20 hole. But again, Slater scored the open 20, prompting Jason to recall a popular Jon Conrad quip, “counts as much as that.” Beierling would leave a hangar on his 7th shot, which Slater scored for a 20 to clinch the match and the Belleville title 4-4, 6-0, 4-4.

With the results of Belleville in the books and the Ontario Doubles Championships coming up soon, the NCA Tour standings already seem to be taking shape. Justin Slater is out to a big lead with 3 victories and 188 points, while Ray Beierling is 2nd with 172 points. Jason Beierling only has 3 events scored in his rankings at the moment, but sits second in points average with 46.7.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Slater Wins 5th Consecutive NCA Singles Event in Tuscarora

From Hamilton now to Tuscarora, Justin Slater is undefeated in NCA Singles events in 2018 as he took down Roy Campbell in the final of the 2018 Turtle Island Crokinole Tournament for his 5th straight NCA Singles title.

44 players were in attendance for the 7th Annual event taking place at the Tuscarora Nation House in Lewiston, NY, which featured competitors from Vermont, Long Island, PEI, Kitchener, Owen Sound, London, Toronto, Niagara, Elmira, Kingston, Penetanguishene, and of course the local contingent.

As they have become quite famous for, the local Tuscarora crowd exemplified hospitality by providing a full spread of breakfast, lunch and afternoon desserts. Also attracting attention was a good number of door prizes, including a raffle for a brand new “Tracey Tour Board.”

As an aside, Crokinole Game Boards made by Jeremy Tracey looks to be off to a good start and is an enjoyable social media follow for crokinole-related content.

The Turtle Island tournament is one of the few events that includes a Kids division, and this year there were 4 participants. Harley Printup had the top score in both the first and second rounds to win the youth title for the second year in a row.

14 competitors were in the Recreational division and Jo-Ann Carter had the top score with 62 points and 43 20s through 10 games. Moochie Printup would also score 43 20s to equal the top mark, and score 54 points to finish 3rd in the preliminary round. Janet Diebel earned the 7th and final spot in Pool A with 41 points, beating out Tiffany Henry at 39, and PEI’s Jane Younker, competing in her first ever tournament at 38 points.

In the Recreational Pool B, Tiffany Henry was first into the playoffs with 33 points, followed immediately by Dave Goodwin of Vermont also at 33 points. Jane Younker and Thomas Sharpe would grab the 3rd and 4th seeds moving in the final four round robin championship. There it was Goodwin and Henry leading the way again, but Tiffany Henry was able to score just 2 more points (15 to Goodwin’s 13 over 3 games) to win the Recreational B title.

In Pool A, a substantial gap appeared between the top 4 and 5th as Dave Carnahan scored 26 points for the 4th spot, 5 points ahead of 5th. Carnahan would finish 4th in the final round robin with 8 points over 3 games, not far behind Janet Diebel at 9 points for 3rd, and Doreen Sulkye at 9 points for 2nd place with the edge via Head-to-Head. Jo-Ann Carter earned the top spot, as she did in all 3 rounds of the day, scoring 22 points in the final four for the Recreational title.

On the Competitive side, in the morning the 26 players played 10 games against a random selection of opponents to determine who would fall into Pools A, B and C in the afternoon. Michael Meleg missed out on Pool B by one point, but then proceeded to advance to the semifinals as the 3rd seed in a very tight second round in Pool C. Mouser Henry and Andrew Korchok earned the 1st and 2nd seeds at 37 points each, while David Younker proceeded as the 4th seed at 34 points when Dale Henry had to withdraw to aid in tournament organization after scoring 35 points.

Both Pool C semifinals were tight and came down to the final round, with Michael Meleg defeating his Niagara club-mate, Andrew Korchok, 9-7, and David Younker defeating Mouser Henry 9-7. The “first to 11 points” final was also closely contested with Younker doing a fine job representing all Islanders, but ultimately succumbing to Meleg 12-8 in the final.

Pool B included a couple of tournament former champions, and last years semifinalists, in Nathan Walsh and Ray Beierling after each missed the Pool A cut-off by 1 and 3 points respectively. In the second round, Walsh ran away with the top score at 53 points over 8 games, followed by Beierling who scored 43 points for second, and Eric Miltenburg at 34. Bev Vaillancourt score 30 points for the final semifinal spot, just ahead of Christina Campbell at 28 points and Jeremy Herrmann at 27.

Ray Beierling would hold his higher seed with a 10-0 semifinal victory over Miltenburg, while Vaillancourt would upset Walsh 9-5 to move on to the finals. In the finals, Vaillancourt carried the momentum and held a lead for a good stretch of the match before Beierling levelled the score at 10-10, and then Beierling proceeded to win the final round for a 12-10 victory and the Pool B title.

Justin Slater and Dwayne Campbell had the top two scores in the morning round at 59 and 58 points to make Pool A. Also making Pool A was Jeremy Tracey, Roy Campbell, Clare Kuepfer, Nolan Tracey, Wayne Scott, Fred Slater and Andrew Hutchinson. Hutchinson was the final entry, despite having the high 20 score of 93 over 10 games, with 48 points to edge Walsh by one.

Some fortunes would flip in the second round as Fred Slater and Andrew Hutchinson, despite being the final two Pool A qualifiers, would advance to the semifinals. Roy Campbell earned the top seed at 43 points, while Justin Slater was 3rd at 40 points in 8 games. Nolan Tracey would be the unlucky 5th place finisher, scoring 34 points, missing the semifinals by 3.

In the Andrew Hutchinson/Justin Slater semifinal, both players held their hammer rounds to be tied 4-4 after 4 rounds. But then Slater ramped up the pressure and stole hammer twice in a row to win the match 10-4. In the Roy Campbell/Fred Slater match, Slater had numerous highlight-reel shots, but Campbell’s 20 scoring was incredible and it got him out to an 8-0 lead which he would convert into a 10-2 victory.

The final of Roy Campbell and Justin Slater would be their second championship encounter; the first being Slater’s 6-2, 6-2 victory at the 2016 Ontario Singles Championship. In this match, Slater would be strong early, and with Campbell showing no signs of the 20s scoring he had in the semifinal, Justin Slater led 8-0. Campbell needed a break and he got one on his hammer in the 5th round when he attempted a follow-through 20 that was missed and nearly scored a 20 for Slater. Even more fortunately, instead of his disc sitting open for Slater to have 3 discs on the board, it sat partially hidden. Slater’s tough takeout attempt was not made and Campbell made an easy takeout to win the round by 5 points and make it 8-2.

That was a clear turning point with Campbell gaining confidence from there, making the score 8-4. Slater did make it 10-4 after he got a lead in the 7th round and made a number of strong takeouts, and he had an Open 20 shot in the 8th round to tie the round and win the match. But his shot fell short, making the score 10-6, and then 10-8.

Still just one point away from the title, Justin Slater would get the final nail in the coffin when he converted a hanger-20 on Campbell’s second shot of the 10th round, and then held on to win the round and the match 12-8.

Hamilton, London, St. Jacob’s, Tavistock and now Tuscarora have all been won by Justin Slater in 2018. Only Belleville and Owen Sound remain to complete the calendar year sweep of the NCA Singles events, a feat never before accomplished.

Speaking of which, the next event on the 2018-2019 NCA Tour is the Belleville Crokinole Challenge coming up Saturday, September 22nd.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Introducing The Crokinole Glossary - Presented by CrokinoleCentre

A Guide to Crokinole Terms and Slang

So if you’ve been watching crokinole videos you’ve been exposed to a significant amount of crokinole terminology. But like learning a new language, or even the local hometown slang, many words and phrases can seem undecipherable and take a long time before they become fully understood. 
For your convenience, below is a list of commonly used crokinole terms, and their corresponding helpful english definition.

Like any good dictionary/glossary/terminology, attempts will be made to keep this listing informational and modern, so feel free to offer suggestions. The updated page can be found here.
Credit to CrokinoleDepot for the templates used to create the diagrams in this glossary.

Description - A crokinole disc counting for 20 points, after having been shot and lying flat in the centre recessed hole of a crokinole board.

20 Race
Description - The very typical opening of a round where players exchange Open 20 attempts until one player misses, thus leaving a disc on the board causing the next shot to not be an Open 20. The first player to miss is said to have “lost the 20 race” while the other is said to have “won the 20 race.”

Angle 20
Description - An attempt at scoring a 20 that involves deflecting off of another disc so that the shooting disc is directed at an angle into the 20 hole. Short-angle and long-angle are often used to describe the distance the shooting disc has to travel to the 20 hole after deflecting off another disc.

Description - Another term for scoring a 20, derived from the fact that the 20 hole is found at the centre of the board. The term is commonly used in Eastern parts of Canada.

Circus 20
Description - An attempt for scoring a 20 of extreme difficulty that often involves numerous fortunate deflections off of pegs and discs to be successful. Typically a “last ditch effort” used when no reasonable options exist.
Common Use - “He/she will need everything to go well on this last shot, a circus 20 is the only way to win.”

Conrad, The 
The Conrad shot.
Description - When an opportunity for an Open 20 is available, a shot intentionally taken so the shooting disc will come to rest in a location where a 20 cannot be made by the opposition.
Origin - Jon Conrad, 2012 and 2013 World Crokinole Champion

Definition - A condition that can affect crokinole players, severely damaging their performance, often manifesting in an inability to release the shooting hand to complete the flicking motion. It can be compared to “dartitis” which famously impacted professional dart player Eric Bristow, or “the yips” which is a term used to describe the loss of fine motor skills without any explanation.

Description - A game known well and with a long history in rural Canada and the Northern United States, though absent from most dictionaries, with no clear idea of the derivation of its name.
Alternative Definition - Another term for scoring a 20. Originating from the theory that crokinole gained its name from its main objective of putting discs, or crokes, in a hole. Hence, croke-in-ole. (Source: Wayne Kelly, Crokinole a 2006 film)

Description - When a disc that was knocked out-of-bounds re-enters the playing surface, usually after striking the outer ditch, and contacts any discs currently in play. Most competitive tournaments utilize the “damage stays” rule whereby the previously out-of-bounds discs are removed from play, but any “damage” caused to the discs in play remain as is. This is the opposite of the “damage replaced” rule where discs are attempted to be moved back into their proper positions before they were “damaged.”

Diddle for the Middle
Description - A method used in many non-competitive games to determine who will shoot first in a round. Each player takes one shot towards the centre, with the player with the closest shot to the middle (perhaps by scoring a 20) getting to start or getting to choose who will start.
Origin - Possibly darts, where some English literature from the mid 1950s references the phrase “diddle for the middle” or “middle for diddle” when describing the beginning of a darts game.

Description - The recessed and outer most ring of a crokinole board, outside the surface of play, where all previously removed discs in a round remain until completion of the round.
Synonym - Gutter

Follow Through
Description - A shot attempt in which the shooting disc strikes one disc and then proceeds forward, as opposed to deflecting to a particular side. Often attempted when an opposing disc is sitting directly in front of the 20 hole from the shooters perspective, in an attempt to score a “follow through 20.”

Description - A shot attempt in which the shooting disc is to come to rest near another disc or peg in order to make the disc very difficult to be removed from the board.
Origin - Sport of Curling

Description - The last shot of the round, a particular advantage. The player/team with the last shot is said to “have the hammer.”
Origin - Sport of Curling

Description - A disc that is partially over-hanging the 20 hole, and often is a good opportunity for an opponent to score a 20; called a “hanger 20.”

Description - A shot where a player’s disc is intentionally left behind a peg or collection of opposing discs and pegs, so that the opponent’s attempt at contacting or removing that disc will be particularly difficult.

Hit and Roll
Description - A shot where the shooting disc hits or removes another disc, and then continues in motion to slide into another location on the board.
Origin - Sport of Curling

Hit and Stick
Description - A shot where the shooting disc hits or removes another disc, and stops without moving after contact is made.
Origin - Sport of Curling

Hogan’s Alley 
The left Hogan's Alley.
Description - The treacherous and most difficult passage of the crokinole board that involves a disc traveling down the narrow passage between a total of four pegs.
In Joe Fulop’s book, “It’s Only Crokinole but I Like It” he references this shot as “going through Hogan’s alley” and then states “I don’t know where the expression came from.” There are numerous uses of the term throughout recent history, including an 1890s comic strip, a 1984 video game, an old alley in Vancouver, and an FBI training facility opened in 1987.
The crokinole usage most likely comes from legendary golf player Ben Hogan, who so thoroughly dominated throughout his career that 2 US golf courses are now known as “Hogan’s Alley.” However, the most analogous connection to crokinole is that of hole #6 of the golf course in Carnoustie, Scotland. In 1953, Hogan won the British Open after successfully using the more dangerous left fairway of the split-fairway hole #6 on all four days of competition. The hole became known as “Hogan’s Alley” before officially being named as such in 2003.

Hog Line
Description - Another term for the 10/15 line, where in the case of no opposing discs on the board, the shooting disc must at least touch or exceed to be a valid shot.
Common Use - “The shot didn’t even make the hog line.”
Origin - Sport of Curling, as shots not reaching the hog line in curling are invalid.

Description - The entire circle encompassed by the 10/15 line, where in the case of no opposing discs on the board, the shooting disc must remain in to be a valid shot.
Common Use - “The disc rolled outside of the house." 
Origin - Sport of Curling

Joe Fulop Shot, The 
The left Joe Fulop shot.
Description - A ricochet 20 scored off an opposition disc that is sitting directly in front of the shooter’s side-left-near peg or side-right-near peg.
Origin - Joe Fulop, 2001, 2002 and 2004 World Crokinole Champion

Description - A disc that is lying on an angle, or leaning, partially resting on the bottom of the 20 hole, and partially resting on the edge of the 15-point surface.

Description - The 15 circle surrounded by pegs.
Common Use - “Forcing play back into the middle.”

Open 20
Description - A 20 attempt when there are no opponent discs on the board, and no player’s own discs blocking the path to the 20 hole, hence an “open board.”

Description - The 5 and 10 point zones, outside of the middle 15 circle and pegs.
Common Use - “Keeping play to the outside.”

Description - A takeout that removes a disc, while also removing the shooter from the board. Often used when the opposition has a lead and a disc on the outer edge of the board, so that play can be forced back into the middle.
Origin - Sport of Curling

Description - A disc that is either resting next to a peg and difficult to remove, or is very likely to be directed into a peg after attempting a takeout at a particular angle.
Common Use - “I can’t remove it from this angle because that disc is pegged.”
Synonym - Posted

Perfect Game
Description - When a player completes a round scoring every 20 possible (example 8 20s made out of 8 shots). While “Perfect Round” is the accurate term, a player’s exuberance after completing one allows them to be forgiven for incorrectly naming the achievement.

Description - When a disc stops or changes course abruptly and without clear reason for doing so.
Origin - Sport of Curling

Description - A shot where the shooting disc is directed into another of it’s own colour in order to move that disc closer to the middle or to an increased scoring area.
Synonym - Promote/Promotion

Razzle Dazzle 
Description - A shot intended to show off one’s own skill and look impressive. “They are beautiful shots to watch and great shots to pull off at a critical time in the game.” (Joe Fulop, It’s Only Crokinole But I Like It.)

Rebound 20
Description - A 20 attempt in which the shooting disc first makes contact with an opposing disc, and then proceeds to bounce off a peg into the 20 hole.

Description - A shot that rebounds or deflects off of another disc. A ricochet 20 describes a shot that deflects off an opposing disc before scoring a 20.
Synonyms - Slider, Drifter, “The In Off”

Roll Away
Description - A shot where the shooting disc removes an opposing disc, and then proceeds to slide to a location that makes it very difficult for an opponent to score a 20. Typically the intention of the shot is to have the shooting disc roll away from the 20 hole. The use of this shot is noticed particularly when a “Hit and Stick” would leave an easy shot for the opponent to score a 20.

Description - A shot where the shooting disc attempts to contact only a small portion of the outer edge of an opposing disc in order to cause a very slight change in the direction of the shooting disc, and usually leave the contacted disc in nearly the same position.

Description - Any points scored in a round where the opponent has the hammer.
Synonym - “Against the Hammer”

Description - A shot where one disc removes another from play. This can be made on multiple discs (“double takeout" or “triple takeout”) or while scoring a 20 (“takeout 20”).

The Situation 
Description - The most important details of the score of a crokinole round, namely how many 20s have been scored by players/teams, and who has the hammer. Commonly clarified with partners during doubles matches.
Common Use - “Fred Slater is asking his partner what the situation is, to which his partner replies that they are up one 20 without hammer.”

Touch 20
Description - A 20 attempt in which the opposing disc is contacted minimally before the shooting disc enters the 20 hole.
Synonym - Slice 20

True Perfect Game
Description - When a player completes a game where every round was a Perfect Round.
Special Note - The first player to do this on camera earns the naming rights to the True Perfect Game.