A few months removed from the 2012 World Championships and the end of the crokinole season, few players looked rusty and the winner's circle had a familiar face.
A stuffy room at the Avaya centre held the 2nd Annual Belleville Crokinole Challenge, welcoming 22 players from Stratford, Toronto, Dobbington, Peterborough, Ottawa, and of course, Belleville. The preliminary round split players into two groups of 11, and coming out it was Belleville's own Louis Gauthier coming out on top with 60pts and 60 20's through 10 games. Joining Gauthier in the top group from the Belleville area were Matt Brown, Dave Brown, and Lawrence Wicks. Newcomer to the NCA Tour, Ryan Rogers played some fantastic crokinole in the early rounds and was able to grab the last spot for the A group for the second round of play. Also making the top group was Fred Slater, Nathan Walsh, Jon Conrad, Brian Cook, Clare Kuepfer and Eric Miltenburg.
Through the second round the level of play began to pick up and the top players found their form. With the top 4 advancing to the playoffs it was Brian Cook coming out well on top to grap the 1st seed, followed by Nathan Walsh, Fred Slater and Jon Conrad. The playoffs were a semifinals and finals format, pitting 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3, while enacting a never before seen Quinte Convention.
The Quinte Convention is a brand new format for head-to-head playoff matches. The format stages a best 2 of 3 games style, but each game only plays 4 rounds regardless of score, meaning a game could end in a tie. If after the conclusion of the 3 games the players are tied (either by tying all three games, or tying one game and splitting the others) then a tiebreaker is used. In the tiebreaker only 2 rounds are played, where if one player leads 3-1 or 4-0 after the two rounds, then the match is complete. Otherwise, another 2 rounds are played as the match continues.
It was in fact the semifinal of Brian Cook and Jon Conrad that would first utilize the Quinte Convention as they were tied after the first 3 games. Their deadlock would continue through the first 4 rounds of tiebreak crokinole, until Brian Cook finally took the match to advance to the final.
The semifinal of Fred Slater and Nathan Walsh would also need tiebreaker rounds after they drew the first game and split 6-2 wins in the second and third games. They would also be deadlocked through the first 4 rounds in the tiebreaker, until Nathan Walsh took the match with a win and a draw in the final tiebreak round.
That left the final to be a rematch of the 2009 World Championship final. Game one of the final was all even until Walsh came up with a circus shot, getting a 20 off 4 pegs to grab control of game 1, before taking it 6-2. Game 2 would see a display of 20's shooting, with each player sinking 3, 4, or 5 20's in each round. Cook was able to win each hammer game and then steal the final round to take the second game 6-2. In the third the 20's shooting continued. Walsh and Cook split the first 2 rounds, before Cook's consistency took the match with a decisive 6-2 win in the third game, to defend his Belleville title.
The NCA Tour now turns to Brucefield for the Ontario Doubles Championships on October 26th, 2012.