While we are far away from the World Crokinole Championship, the 2014 Belleville Crokinole Challenge brought with it tournament organization of the highest calibre, and a level of nerves only seen on the world stage. And on September 20th, it was the coolest of customers, Justin Slater, walking away with his first Belleville title.
The early part of the week had seen very cool temperatures, indicative of the Fall season, officially set to start in the following week. But with one last farewell to the Summer, the weather had warmed into the low 20s (celsius) for the weekend.
The full crowd arrived on Saturday morning with a tournament-record attendance of 32, which quickly had Belleville club members stating that next year's goal was to reach 40. The preliminary round split the field into 3 evenly ranked groups. Justin Slater, no longer being out East during the school year, jumped up to take the top spot with 67 points out of a possible 80. Nathan Walsh had the second spot and the most 20s with 107, being the only player to reach triple digits. Others to make the top group included Jon Conrad, Eric Miltenburg, Jason Beierling, Howard Martin, and local Belleville club members Louis Gauthier and Len Chard. Just missing out was Dave Brown (on 20's), Clare Kuepfer and Peter Tarle.
The field split into 3 categories for the second round as the money was on the line. Things were really tight in the C division with 2 points separating 4th from 6th place, as Gloria Walsh and Bob Leggett missed out on the final semifinal spot.
The B division was a bit more spread out with Dave Brown leading the way, followed by Roy Campbell, Clare Kuepfer and Wayne Scott grabbing the final spot in the semifinals.
The A division also came in close. After Brian Cook took the top spot with 53 points, the log jam of players saw Justin Slater, Matt Brown and Nathan Walsh fill out the top 4, in a repeat of the Tavistock final 4, while Ray Beierling missed out by a mere 2 points.
Matt Brown, following in similar stride to Louis Gauthier's success last year, is poised to be the breakthrough crokinole player of the season. Top 4 finishes in the World Championship Doubles, World Championship Singles and the extremely tough Belleville field put him as the next player knocking on the door of the winners circle.
In the C division, Cathy Kuepfer and Terry Kruyk held on to their top seeds as Kuepfer defeated Betty Waite and Kruyk defeated Dale Henry in the semifinals. The final saw Kuepfer maintain her success and take the C title back to Owen Sound.
In the B division Dave Brown and Roy Campbell also held on to their top 2 seeds, defeating Scott and Kuepfer respectively in the semifinals. Dave Brown then took advantage of the Quinte Convention, winning the match in overtime after being tied through 3 games, and taking the B title over Roy Campbell.
In the A semifinals, Brian Cook and Nathan Walsh's playoff meetings extended into 3 consecutive years as the two made up the championship match in both 2012 and 2013. Walsh was able to sneak out a win in 3 games, while it was a similar story for Justin Slater over Matt Brown.
That left Justin Slater and Nathan Walsh to face off in the finals, a replay of the 2014 St. Jacobs final that Slater won in 3 games. Walsh came out strong winning the first game 6-0 and leading 4-0 in the 2nd game. But Slater then elevated his level of play, forcing the 2nd game into a tie, and then winning the 3rd game 5-1. Following the Quinte Convention rules, Slater and Walsh headed to overtime. With a chance to win the tournament on his final shot, Walsh blundered his disc off a peg, before Slater made an easy takeout to extend the match. Slater then was tremendous in scoring 20s in the following round as he took the match and the 2014 Belleville Crokinole Challenge.
Belleville did a great job promoting the tournament and there was a nice article written about an evening at the Belleville Club that is definitely worth a read. Link found here: Quinte Alive
The next stop on the NCA Tour is the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship, to be held for the 2nd year in Brucefield by CrokinoleDepot and the Varna Crokinole Club. The event will be held on October 18th and include reigning champions Ray and Jason Beierling. It is yet to be seen how many of the partnerships will turn out, including whether the 3-time ODCC winners, Brian Cook and Fred Slater, will team up. Time will tell as the event draws near, and is sure to be exciting.
If you are from the USA, it is highly encouraged that you check out the Choner Crokinole Championships, also happening on October 18th. The event was attended and won by Knipsbrat last year, and is once again being hailed as "flicking-good" tournament. Check out the website and see if you can attend.
Lastly, a commitment has been made to preparing and uploading many crokinole videos that have been previously recorded. Last weekend the 2012 PEI Doubles Finals were uploaded (PEI Doubles), which will be the first of a full series of videos being added to CrokinoleCentre's Youtube page. The plan is to add one more match every week until the uploaded videos are completely caught up to the crokinole action of the present day.