The 2018 calendar year has been one of Justin Slater's best, which is saying something for a player of his calibre and resume. Coming into Belleville, Slater had won the singles events in Hamilton, London, St. Jacobs, the World Championships, and Turtle Island: 5 victories in 6 events. The single blemish being a 2nd place finish in Kitchener at the Joseph Schneider Haus event. The winner of that event, by just one single point over Slater, was Jason Beierling, and the two would meet again in the finals of the 2018 Belleville Crokinole Challenge.
The Quinte Region Crokinole Club (QRCC) welcomed 38 players from Kingston, Oshawa, Toronto, Kitchener, London, Owen Sound, Hamilton and Penetanguishene. Chris Gorsline opened up the day with some scripted comments on rules and tournament format, mixed in with off-the-cuff humour, and then play began.
Fred Slater led all morning scores with 62 points and 91 20s in 10 games, with Nathan Walsh finishing 2nd with 61 points, and Justin Slater finishing 3rd with an adjusted 10-game score of 60 points (by virtue of the rotation some players only played 9 games, Slater scored 54 points in those 9 games). The top 20 score of the morning round came from Roger Vaillancourt who scored 98 20s through 9 games (equivalent to 109 20s through 10 games).
The top 13 scores from the morning advanced to Pool A for the afternoon, which included several NCA-regulars with a long resume of crokinole success, and tournament rookies Tim Burgess and John Wood, who made a strong impression and quickly became players to watch out for. Also making the afternoon A pool were the Tracey trio (Jeremy, Reid and Nolan), which was impressive considering all 3 were placed into the same pool in the morning round.
John McFeeters, Peter Tarle and Shirley Sager just missed the Pool A cutoff (McFeeters by 2 points, Tarle and Sager by 3), while Clare Kuepfer grabbed the 13th and final spot in Pool A with 48 points in 10 games. The cutoff for Pool B also saw a couple players just missing out with Jo-Ann Carter earning the final spot with 36 points in 10 games, beating out Barrie Wood by 2 points, and Dave Brown by 3 points.
In the afternoon, Pool C was led by Len Chard at 51 points and 63 20s in 9 games. Bob Leggett grabbed the 2nd seed with 49 points, Peter Klaassen was 3rd with 45 points, and tournament rookie Maradyn Wood earned the final playoff spot with 43.2 points (48 points in 10 games, adjusted down to 9). For the second time in the day, Dave Brown just missed the cutoff, finishing 5th with 39 points.
In Pool B, it was Eric Miltenburg, playing for the first time representing the flag of the Quinte Club, earning the top seed with 53 points in 10 games. Peter Tarle was second with 51 points and a group-high 78 20s, with Chris Gorsline closely behind at 49 points. And the final semifinal spot was earned by John McFeeters at 43 points, edging out the 41 points of Brian Miltenburg.
The A pool was led by Jason Beierling, who scored 51 points in 9 games (adjust to 56.7 points in 10 games), followed by Justin Slater at 53 points. Andrew Hutchinson scored 43 points in 9 games (equivalent to 47.77 over 10 games), while Nathan Walsh earned the 4th seed with 47 points. The 5th and 6th place spots were close behind with Jeremy Tracey at a 10-game adjusted score of 45.55 points, and Fred Slater at 45 points.
The 20s scores were somewhat incredible in Pool A with Walsh scoring 115 20s, including his 2nd perfect round of the tournament, but that was only the 3rd highest 20 score in the pool. Ray Beierling, who finished 7th, scored 105 20s in 9 games, which normalizes to 117 20s in 10 games, and Jason Beierling scored 118 20s in 9 games, which translates to a huge 131 20s. Truly some fantastic 20s scores for being very early in the crokinole season.
After a quick explainer of the Quinte Convention, the semifinals were able to get underway. For those unaware, the Quinte Convention was first introduced in 2012, and although it's had some tweaks has generally stayed true to form. While opinions on playoff formats vary greatly between individuals, it's generally acknowledged that the Quinte Convention, and the Belleville tournament, was the first event to remove the advantage of hammer in a head-to-head match. (To explain further: under the World Championship final format, 2 perfectly equal opponents will eventually find themselves tied with only one tiebreaker round to play. In that instance, one player has the inherent, and some would argue unfair, advantage of having an extra round with the hammer advantage.)
The Quinte playoff format is a best 2 out of 3 games, but each game only plays a maximum of 4 rounds, meaning it is possible for a game to end in a tie at 4-4. If after 3 games the players are tied (either by drawing all 3 games 4-4, or by drawing one game 4-4 and each winning one of the other 2 games), the match proceeds to the Quinte Convention tiebreaker. The tiebreaker involves pairs of 2 rounds being played, so each player has the hammer once. If, after a pair of rounds is completed, the score is either 3-1 or 4-0, the match is over. If the score is 2-2, then another pair of 2 rounds is played. A maximum of 4 pairs of rounds (a total of 8 extra rounds) is played, and if still tied the match ends via a 20 shootout (which has yet to be required in the history of the Quinte Convention).
In the C Pool semifinals, Len Chard progressed 6-2, 6-0 against Maradyn Wood, while Peter Klaassen defeated Bob Leggett 6-0, 5-3. In the finals, Len Chard emerged victorious, winning 4-4, 6-2, 4-4 over Klaassen.
In Pool B, Peter Tarle defeated Chris Gorsline 5-1, 6-2, while Eric Miltenburg and John McFeeters required the Quinte Convention to determine a winner. McFeeters won the first game 5-3 and led 4-0 in game 2, before Miltenburg staved off elimination by winning the next 4 points to tie game 2 4-4, and then send the match to extra rounds with a 6-2 game 3 win. Miltenburg prevailed in the first set of extra rounds 4-0 to make the final. Peter Tarle won the final match by a score of 4-4, 6-2, 4-2 (having already secured the match by earning at least a tie in the 3rd game) to win Pool B and the Reg Chisholm Memorial trophy.
The A Pool semifinals saw Andrew Hutchinson and Justin Slater facing off in a rematch of their Turtle Island semifinal from one month ago, while Jason Beierling and Nathan Walsh played each for the first time in a singles playoff encounter. Hutchinson and Slater played a brilliantly tied match, with Hutchinson winning game one 6-2, and Slater winning game two by the same score. In game 3, Hutchinson won the first 2 points against the hammer, only to have Slater return the favour and then lead 4-2 threatening to take the match. But Hutchinson pulled out the final round to tie it 4-4. The first pair of extra rounds was split 2-2, before Slater won the final pair 4-0 to make the final.
In the other semifinal, it looked like one-way traffic for a while with Walsh leading 5-1, 4-0, but Jason Beierling came back from the brink to make game 2 4-4. Walsh then won the first round of game 3, and needing only a 3rd game tie, was 2 points from the finals. But again Beierling fought back, winning the next 3 rounds to take game 3 6-2, and then winning first set of extra rounds to make the final (5 rounds "on the trot" as they would say in England).
It was Jason Beierling's and Justin Slater's first meeting in a singles final, with their last playoff meeting being the St. Jacobs semifinal won 10-6 by Slater. Game 1 saw both players play their first hammer rounds solidly for a score of 2-2, and then saw both players trade costly errors leading to 2 steals for a 4-4 tie to game 1. In game 2, Slater was very opportunistic and converted each of the few hangar 20 opportunities that were left to him, and after a steal and 2 hammer holds, Slater had won game 2 6-0.
The tension built in game 3, with Beierling accumulating a couple of discs on the board following Slater errors. Slater scored a touch-20 and was rewarded when Beierling's open 20 shot slipped through the house. However, only up one 20, Slater faced two opposing discs on his final shot. After a long analysis Slater's shot resulted in only a single-takeout and a missed 20. Beierling made the successful hit and stick to lead 2-0. Round 2 was more structured with Beierling missing an early 20 and Slater comfortably maintaining the lead throughout the round to make it 2-2. Beierling, now facing elimination, won the 3rd round in a similar fashion with superior 20 scoring even when facing pressure after Slater scored a touch 20 to take what was a temporary 20 lead.
In the fourth round, Slater needing 2 points to win the title, Beierling missed his first open 20, but immediately scored a follow-through 20 to get back on track. Slater answered strongly with a couple open 20s until Beierling missed short on his 4th shot and was again looking for takeout-20 opportunities. One came later on this 6th shot when he expertly took out a disc in-between the pegs and had his shooter rebound perfectly off the peg into the 20 hole. But again, Slater scored the open 20, prompting Jason to recall a popular Jon Conrad quip, "counts as much as that." Beierling would leave a hangar on his 7th shot, which Slater scored for a 20 to clinch the match and the Belleville title 4-4, 6-0, 4-4.
With the results of Belleville in the books and the Ontario Doubles Championships coming up soon, the NCA Tour standings already seem to be taking shape. Justin Slater is out to a big lead with 3 victories and 188 points, while Ray Beierling is 2nd with 172 points. Jason Beierling only has 3 events scored in his rankings at the moment, but sits second in points average with 46.7.