Fred Slater became the 2013 Forest City Flickers Champion, but also ensured the 2012-2013 NCA Tour would come down to the wire. Competing against the current Tour leader, Jon Conrad, in the finals Slater had to win to prevent Conrad from clinching the Tour title, while simultaneously keeping himself in the race.
A well attended crokinole tournament in London, Ontario had 48 players packing into the St. James Westminster Lutheran Church this past Saturday. 29 players had signed up for the competitive division, including 3-time champion Raymond Beierling, 2012 World Champion Jon Conrad, and 6 of the top 10 CrokinoleCentre ranked players. Regrettably not in attendance was reigning champion Jason Beierling who could not attend
The preliminary round split the 29 players into 3 groups, all aiming to make the top 10 cut off for the second round. Emerging from those groups were Ray Beierling, Fred Slater, Jon Conrad, Lloyd Wiseman, Rex Johnston, Nathan Walsh, Greg Matthison, John Harvey, Roy Campbell, and Robert Bonnett. What began as a tight contest turned into a relatively easy qualification as Jon Conrad, Ray Beierling, Fred Slater and Roy Campbell made the top 4.
From there the competition only intensified. Ray Beierling was targeting his fourth London title and his fifth trip to the finals, after losing to his brother the year before. Jon Conrad had the opportunity to win his first NCA title since World Championship double, and clinch his first ever NCA title. Fred Slater was trying to bolster his 3rd place NCA standing, but also avenge his 2009 London final loss to Ray Beierling at the first ever NCA tournament. And Roy Campbell, only in his second NCA season, had made his first final 4 appearance.
But in the top 4, Fred Slater and Jon Conrad were superior, and they became the 2013 London finalists.
In the final, Fred Slater got out to the early advantage, leading the opening game of the best of three final 4-0. Jon Conrad was able to get his foot in the door though as he fought his way back to tie the game 4-4. But Fred Slater got out to an early lead in the 5th round tiebreaker and went on to win the round, without hammer, to take game one.
Game two became a game of strategy, as both players made some interesting moves to try and gain the upper hand. Fred Slater won round one, then Jon Conrad won round two. Round three was a pivotal one as Conrad held an advantage without the hammer, but Fred Slater fought back to earn the tie. At 3-3, Jon Conrad had the hammer in the fourth round, but Fred Slater was only one round away from victory. And after earning a quick lead, Slater would hang on to win the 2013 Forest City Flickers Championship.
Early on this season appeared as though the Tour title would be wrapped up quickly as Jon Conrad got off to that fantastic start at the World Championships. But with Brian Cook's four straight tournament victories, and Fred Slater's most recent win, this is shaping up to be the most exciting Tour finish yet. With only one tournament to go, only three players have a shot at claiming the NCA's top prize.
(Lowest Score - Refers to the lowest score included in a player's overall point total, i.e. their 4th highest score.)
For Jon Conrad, an appearance in the finals of St. Jacob's will clinch in the NCA title, while a third place finish leaves the door open for Fred Slater to tie him in overall points if he were to win in St. Jacob's. A fourth place finish for Conrad would mean that Slater could win the NCA title with a St. Jacob's victory, or Brian Cook could tie Jon Conrad for the NCA title if he were to win. A 5th place or lower finish for Conrad means that his overall score will not change.
In that case, both Brian Cook and Fred Slater must win the NCA finale to win the Tour title. And just in case none of these three win in St. Jacob's and Jon Conrad finishes no better than fifth, Fred Slater could share the NCA title if he were to finish second in St. Jacob's. And while it goes without saying, a Jon Conrad NCA title can be assured if neither Brian Cook is victorious in St. Jacob's, or Fred Slater is denied a top two finish.
At any rate, it's shaping up to be a wild finish for the 2012-2013 NCA Tour.