Coming off an extremely strong performance at the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship, Ray Beierling entered Owen Sound looking for back-to-back victories. While the competition was tough, Beierling held it together when the nerves were high and title was on the line.
With particularly modest November weather, the Owen Sound crowd made for a packed field of most of the best crokinole players in Ontario. A field of 26 for the competitive singles and another 19 teams for the recreational doubles made for a tournament size of 64, which may stand as the largest tournament this year outside of the World Championships.
The preliminary round lined up all 13 tables for singles action of 10 games. A high level of competition raised the bar for 20s scores with 6 players recording more than 100 20s in the round. Roy Campbell was the class of the field, scoring 61 points and 122 20s, and decent distance ahead of second place with Ray Beierling at 56 points.
Closely behind were Brian Cook, Justin Slater (at a tournament high 129 20s), and defending Owen Sound Champion, Louis Gauthier. Fred Slater and Robert Bonnett also qualified, just ahead of Nathan Walsh and Howard Martin who grabbed the final spots with 47 and 46 points respectively. Rueben Jong, Jon Conrad and Roger Vaillancourt would hold the unlucky cards, all finishing less than 3 points out of the top group and head to Pool B for the afternoon.
Meanwhile a large doubles round robin was being played, featuring many of the hometown members of the Scone Crokinole Club, and others who drove the long distance in the name of crokinole addiction. While the visitors would perform admirably with Bob Jones and John Lichty finishing second in the 19 team competition, Neil and Carol Cook would bring home the title for the local crowd with a narrow victory of a single point.
On the singles side the 26 players split into 3 groups for the afternoon play. In Pool C, Bev Vaillancourt led the way with 44 points, with Abijah Jong, Wayne Scott and Kyle Vaillancourt following to also qualify for the top 4 playoffs. It was Kyle Vaillancourt who would emerge from the playoff round robin as the top seed, while Bev Vaillancourt needed to win a tie-breaker to sneak past Abijah Jong. That set up a Pool C final of mother vs son, and Bev Vaillancourt would come out on top, once again needing a tie-breaker round to do so.
In Pool B, Brian Simpson started to take charge, scoring 41 points and finishing ahead of Jon Conrad at 40. Roger Vaillancourt and Eric Miltenburg would take the 3rd and 4th spots, just ahead of a dead-heat for 5th place with Peter Tarle, Rueben Jong and Dave Brown all at 31 points. The round of of 4 playoffs would see Roger Vaillancourt lead the way in 20s with 33, but that was not enough as Jon Conrad and Eric Miltenburg finished first and second with 15 points. In the final Jon Conrad was at his best, winning the best 2 out of 3 match in 2 straight games.
With the Owen Sound title on the line, Pool A saw a lot of tight play as points were extremely hard to come by. Nathan Walsh scored 39 points to earn the top spot, while Justin Slater recorded 38 points, and Ray Beierling 37. The 4th and final spot would be as close as it gets, with Roy Campbell, Fred Slater and Brian Cook at 33 points. After a little math to see the head-to-head scores, it was determined that Roy Campbell had won the final playoff spot. The playoff games were extremely competitive as 4 of the 6 games ended in a 4-4 draw, but when the dust settled Ray Beierling was set to play Nathan Walsh in a rematch of the 2014 London final from last March.
While Nathan Walsh was looking to win his first tournament after losses in his last 2 finals appearances, Ray Beierling was looking for his first singles tournament victory since the Turtle Island Championship in 2013. Continuing on a similar thread of very even play, the first 2 games of the best of 3 would end in a 4-4 tie. Just when it looked like the 3rd game was also going to a draw, Ray Beierling snuck out a point against the hammer to make it 3-3 heading into the 4th round. With the hammer advantage, Beierling grabbed an early 20 and held the advantage to win the match 4-4, 4-4, 5-3.
The Owen Sound results keep the NCA Tour a fairly tight race, with Justin Slater holding a slight cushion in the lead. It's still too early to begin throwing around projections, but look for players with less tournaments played, like Brian Cook, Matt Brown, Jason Beierling, Roger Vaillancourt and Louis Gauthier, to make some advancements later in the season.
Meanwhile, on the year-round CrokinoleCentre rankings, the Ray Beierling victory moves him into a co-#1-ranking with Brian Cook for the singles category. The full rankings can be found in the "CrokinoleCentre Rankings" tab above.
|1||Justin Slater||312||1||Ray Beierling||292|
|2||Ray Beierling||296||1||Brian Cook||292|
|3||Nathan Walsh||293.5||3||Nathan Walsh||287.5|
|4||Brian Cook||292||4||Jon Conrad||279.5|
|5||Fred Slater||287.5||5||Justin Slater||274.5|
|6||Jon Conrad||282||6||Fred Slater||262|
|7||Jason Beierling||275||7||Roy Campbell||252.5|
|8||Matt Brown||266||8||Eric Miltenburg||241.5|
|9||Roy Campbell||260||9||Jason Beierling||235.5|
|10||Louis Gauthier||257||10||John Harvey||215|
And with that, the crokinole season quiets down for a little bit. No tournaments in the month of December or February, so we'll look forward to the Golden Horseshoe Crokinole tournament in Hamilton in January. No specific date set for that tournament yet, but details are sure to come soon.
While the competitive action lessens, the Winter weather is sure to come soon if it hasn't already, and that mixed with the holiday season makes for some great family memories around the crokinole board.