In 2010 Justin Slater proved he was one of the best players in the world as he won in Hamilton, finished second in London and at the Joseph Schneider Haus, before winning in St. Jacob's to tie Ray Beierling for first on the NCA Tour. A month later he would become the youngest ever winner of the World Championships.
A year ago he returned to Ontario after being away at university, but not in the same dominant form (although his third place in St. Jacob's and top 16 finish at the World Championships was still quite impressive).
But on Saturday, May 5, Justin Slater seemed like he had returned to his dominant form as he defeated Brian Cook in the finals to claim the St. Jacob's Crokinole Tournament final, while Brian Cook won his third NCA Tour title.
The day began with a field of 25 separated into 3 pools. In an elite field all games were tight, and the point gaps were small as players were separated into three groups for the second round. Making it into Group A was Brian Cook, Justin Slater, Jason Beierling, Eric Miltenburg, Jason Carter, John Conrad, Nathan Walsh, Greg Matthison, and Rob Mader.
In an extremely tight second round, Justin Slater, Brian Cook and John Conrad secured the top three positions, while three more players tied for fourth place, and the final playoff position. It was Jason Beierling who would win the tiebreaker and hold the final playoff position.
In the playoff round robin, the scores came down to the final game with Brian Cook taking first with 15 pts, Justin Slater with 13, and Jason Beierling and John Conrad on the outside looking in with 10.
There was a lot of excitement surrounding the finals, especially as it was a repeat of the 2010 World Championship final. Game 1 of the best of 3 final was closely contested. But as Justin Slater led 4-2, a tie in the 4th round of game 1 was the turning point as Slater would go on to take the final 5-3, 6-2.
The win gave Slater his fourth NCA title, while Ray Beierling claimed the top spot in the B pool, and Nathan Jongsma won the C pool.
Meanwhile, the St. Jacob's tournament capped off the fourth season of the NCA Tour, as Brian Cook won his third Tour. Only in the 2010 season was Cook unable to win the Tour, in a year where Justin Slater and Ray Beierling shared the Tour's top ranking.
Cook's win of this season won perhaps his most comprehensive. His worst finish in any tournament was a second, which he achieved in the 2011 World Championships and at St. Jacob's. In between those two were 6 consecutive wins in Belleville, Stratford, Owen Sound, Hamilton, and the BC Doubles and Singles titles. He dominated the season so thoroughly that only one other person earned more than one NCA title this season, which was Fred Slater, who scored both wins as Cook's doubles partner in Stratford and BC.
Behind Brian Cook was Ray Beierling, who was in the top three for most of the Tour, and once he moved into second place on the Tour, after his runner-up finish in London, he did not relinquish it. This is Beierling's second runner-up finish on the Tour, both of which were behind Brian Cook.
Fred Slater was able to earn several points early in the Tour, and secured a high ranking after his trip to BC, which led to a doubles victory, and a second place singles finish. His third place finish this year backs up a solid second place finish last year on the Tour.
Jason Beierling had yet another solid season, where he captured his first ever NCA title in London. The win moved him to fourth on the Tour, a position which he sealed with a fourth in St. Jacob's. This was Jason Beierling's second fourth place finish on the Tour, and in its four years he has never finished worse than sixth.
So as another NCA Tour raps up, the focus shifts to the World Championships in less than a month's time.