A top 16 playoff singles match from the 2019 World Crokinole Championship between Jon Conrad and Reid Tracey.
A top 16 playoff singles match from the 2019 World Crokinole Championship between Jon Conrad and Reid Tracey.
In 2018, Jason Beierling had advanced to the Belleville final where his efforts ended in defeat in his first trip to the tournament's championship stage. 12 months later, he had returned to the final step and put in two confident playoff matches to come away victorious as the 2019 Belleville Crokinole Challenge winner.
For the second year in a row the Belleville event matched it's record-high attendance of 39, welcoming players from Owen Sound, Kingston, the greater Toronto area, Kitchener, London, Penetanguishene, Guelph, Tuscarora, New York and New Hampshire.
Morning play was split into 4 pool with Ray Beierling (61 points in 9 games) and Andrew Hutchinson (55 points) leading the way in Pool A. Barrie Wood scored 40 points for 3rd in the pool, but that would ultimately be 3 points shy of making Group A in the afternoon. Local favourite, Matt Brown, had the top score in Pool B with 51 points in 9 games, followed by Jason Beierling at 49 and Ron Langill at 48. Both Maradyn Wood and Clare Kuepfer scored 41 points to tie for 4th in the pool, and both would meet again in Group B in the second round.
In Pool C, Jeremy Tracey (playing his last North American event before travelling to Budapest in a week's time for the Hungarian Federation hosted event dubbed The Crokinole World Cup) scored the highest at 62 points in 9 games. Fred Slater scored 54 points, while Roger Vaillancourt scored 43 points to finish 3rd in the pool and earn the final spot in Group A for the afternoon. Nathan Walsh led Pool D with 56 points in 8 games, and he was joined in Group A with Extra Pint's Jason Molloy (45 points) and John McFeeters, who scored 40 to edge Steffan Hiller-Ranney's 37.
As player's sat for lunch some made time to attempt to set the high-score in a side 20s shootout competition. Players attempted 8 open 20s with the intention of scoring the most, although that became somewhat difficult as the board used for the competition was not adverse to giving the odd leaner. When the competition time had ceased, Matt Brown and Doug Gibson had tied for the high score with 6 20s and then took part in a final showdown. Brown took the first crack and started strong with 3 straight 20s, but his momentum stopped when he got 2 straight leaners, and finished with a score of 5 out of 8. Gibson looked like he would surpass that score, sitting at 5 20s after 6 shots, but then dramatically both of his final shots resulted in leaners for an identical score of 5 20s made, along with 2 leaners. An extra round proved successful for Brown who made another 5 20s (this time with one leaner), while Gibson received 2 leaners in the his first 4 shots which derailed his set of 20s, as Brown took the 20s Shootout title.
In the afternoon play, Len Chard came away as the Group D winner after scoring 40 points in 7 games, a decent margin ahead of another Quinte club member, Betty Waite, who was in second with 35 points, one ahead of Gloria Walsh in third. There was also a decent winning margin in Group C as Dave Brown ended up first with 47 points in 8 games, followed by Beverly Vaillancourt at 39 points in second and Kingston's Wayne Scott at 35 points.
In Groups A and B, players vied for spots in the top 4 to advance to the playoff stages. Group B scores ended up being pretty close with 7 points between first and and sixth. Eric Miltenburg and Peter Carter both scored 48 points (in 10 games), while Doug Gibson finished third at 47 and Clare Kuepfer took the final playoff spot at 43. This was just ahead of Glenndon Whitaker at 43 points and Maradyn Wood at 41. The spectators circled around the boards for the semifinal matches, but those didn't feature too much drama on the B side. Kuepfer defeated Miltenburg 10-2 and Carter took down Gibson 9-1, as it appeared that both victors quickly became comfortable with the boards while their opponents struggled to find form.
In the B finals, the match progressed to 5-5 with both players earning 2 relatively comfortable round wins, in addition to one complex round that ended in a draw. Kuepfer was able to earn a slight advantage when he went ahead 7-5, and then the player's continued to fight on level terms as they tied the next two rounds to go 8-6 and then 9-7. The 9th round was by far the best of the match, as Kuepfer scored a nice touch-20 and followed it up with a great double-takeout, while Carter got back into the round with a takeout-20. But the definitive moment was a gutsy combo-ricochet-20 Kuepfer made where he had to make a 20 off his own disc in the 15 and propel it towards the opposing disc in the 5. Carter missed the open 20 on the reply, and Kuepfer won the match and the B title 11-7.
In Group A not a single player seemed to excel through the field, and in rare fashion no one surpassed 5 points per game. Ray Beierling finished as the top seed at 50 points in 10 games, along with 112 20s, and he was followed closely by both Jason Beierling and Nathan Walsh at 48 points. Roger Vaillancourt grabbed the final semifinal spot at 46 points to make his first ever Group A final 4 appearance, as he just beat out Andrew Hutchinson, Jeremy Tracey and Fred Slater, who all scored 44 points, and Matt Brown who had 43. Amazingly 7 points separate 1st from 8th, and 2 points separated 4th and 7th.
The Jason Beierling/Nathan Walsh semifinal was their second ever head-to-head match, with the first being Beierling's win in the 2018 Belleville semifinal. Jason Beierling was under some pressure in the first round of the match, but that was relieved when he hit a takeout-2-peg-20 which was followed by Walsh missing his reply open 20 through the house as Beierling took a 2-0 lead. Beierling then hit a long ricochet 20 in the second round that set him up for another 2 points, as he carried a truck-load of momentum into an 8-0 lead. Walsh would get on the board late to make it 8-2, but a near flawless round from Jason Beierling in the 6th made it a 10-2 semifinal victory.
In the other semifinal, the match started deadlocked at 2-2, and it appeared to be headed for 3-3 when Vaillancourt (leading by a 20) left his final shot close to the hole leaving a takeout-20 opportunity for Beierling. But on Ray Beierling's last shot, he scored a 20 only to have hit the opposing disc too squarely on a peg, just slowing its momentum enough so that it remained on the board in the 5, for a 4-2 Vaillancourt lead. The lead became 8-2 as Roger Vaillancourt was superior on open 20 scoring, and Ray Beierling struggled to manufacture 20s from behind. Ray fought back with a storming performance in each of the next three rounds where he seemingly comfortably earned 6 points and made the score 8-8 to setup a sudden-death round. In that final round, Vaillancourt earned the early edge by making his first 20 while Beierling missed. This put a lot pressure on Beierling as throughout the match neither player had much luck fighting from behind. But critically on his very next shot, Ray Beierling's follow-through-20 attempt careened regally off a peg to end up sitting nearly perfectly hidden on his side of the board.
Vaillancourt missed on the takeout, but the drama wasn't done there as Beierling missed a chance by going long on his open 20. The two player's then tip-toed around each other searching for a 20 off of that single disc in the 15, before Ray Beierling finally got an opening and made the pivotal takeout-20 to win the match 10-8.
That setup the all Beierling final between Ray and Jason, in what was their 4th head-to-head battle. Previously, Jason had won their 2012 London final meeting, with Ray winning the next two matchups (2013 Hamilton final, 2018 World Championship 3rd/4th place game). Both players started with lots of open 20s scored, and it was easy to see Jason's confidence was high as in multiple cases he could (and perhaps should) have played defensive, but elected the more aggressive 20 attempt despite having the lead. Jason led 4-2, which then stretched to 8-2 when Ray's final shots in the 4th and 5th rounds were both missed when an opporunity for a tie or win was possible.
Ray Beierling was able to fight back to 9-5, but Jason Beierling capped off the match in round 8, affirmed by his first 2 shots of the round that included an aggressive follow-through 20, and then an exceptional defensive roll-out. The final 2 points gave Jason the 11-5 match and tournament victory.
Following the event, Ray Beierling now has the top spot on the NCA Tour, though that is at least partly a result of him competing in 4 events already, as the previous leader, Connor Reinman, remained stationary at 138 points after 3 events. With the win, Jason Beierling is now positioned in the best spot on the NCA Tour. 141 points after 3 events, so one more solid performance would already put him among the likely top scores of the 2019-2020 season.
The win earned Jason Beierling the Belleville Crokinole Challenge title, though if you look closely the tournament trophy is clearly labelled "Eastern Challenge." There's a bit of history there as this trophy was previously used as the top prize for the Eastern Challenge Crokinole Tournament. The tournament is no longer active, but used to be a team event (the only event of its kind other than the Schneider Haus tournament) that featured the main clubs of Eastern Ontario, such as Kawartha, Ottawa and Belleville. In recent years the trophy has now been re-purposed for use in the Belleville Crokinole Challenge.
In the past 20 months only 3 players, Andrew Hutchinson, Connor Reinman and Justin Slater, have claimed victory at an NCA singles event. Justin Slater wasn't in attendance in Tuscarora, but Hutchinson and Reinman ensured the exclusive winners circle would remain when they met to fight each other for the Turtle Island title.
A day of brutally long border wait times unfortunately caught out some players, and yet there were still 39 players in attendance for the morning round at the Tuscarora Nation House. That number would rise to a grand total of 44 (23 in competive, 16 in recreational, and 5 in kidz) by the afternoon.
Nathan Walsh led the preliminary round scores with 62 points and 101 20s in 10 games, followed by Ray Beierling at 60 points, Andrew Hutchinson at 54 and Connor Reinman at 51 and a tournament-high 115 20s. Also making the A Pool in the afternoon were Jeremy Tracey (51 points), Roy Campbell (47), Jon Conrad (45) and Ron Langill (43). Michael Meleg (42), Andrew Korchok (41) and Roger Vaillancourt (41) all just missed out on A Pool cutoff and were in Pool B for the afternoon.
On the Recreational side, Francis Zettler and Brian Henry led the way at 58 and 55 points respectively to setup the afternoon play, while the Kidz division was very tight with Rachel Beierling claiming the top prize with 27 points, just ahead of Harley Printup and Novalee Printup at 26 and 24 points.
In the afternoon action, Josiah Brubacher scored the top seed in the Rec B Pool with 39 points in 6 games, and was joined in the playoffs by Christa Brubacher (28 points), Robin Piotto (26) and Melanie Meleg (22). Josiah Brubacher went into the final 4 action as the favourite, but was just edged out by Robin Piotto for the division win after both scored 14 points, but Piotto had the tiebreaker advantage.
In the Recreational A pool, Francis Zettler continued to perform superiorly with 36 points in 7 games, followed by Sarah Beierling at 33 points, Dave Carnahan at 30 and Erwin Printup at 29 points, just surpassing Janet Diebel who's 28 points just missed out on the playoffs. In the final 4 round robin, Zettler was pushed as Printup elevated his game to score 13 points, but it was only enough for second as Zettler scored 15 points to claim the Recreational title after finishing first in every round of action.
On the competitive side, Jo-Ann Carter led the round robin action in Pool C with 33 points and 49 20s in 6 games. She was joined in the playoffs by Eric Miltenburg (29 points), Abijah Jongsma (24) and Rueben Jongsma (23), as Graham Gaessler just missed the top 4 cutoff with 22 points. In the 1v4 semifinal, Rueben Jongsma overcame his lower seed and defeated Carter 10-2 in the first-to-9 match, while Eric Miltenburg also won his semifinal by a score of 10-2 over Abijah Jongsma. It was clear that Rueben Jongsma was just picking up steam all day long as he proceeded to then roll through his final first-to-11-points match with a 12-2 victory over Miltenburg.
In Pool B, the top scores were closely bunched with Roger Vaillancourt earning that top seed at 35 points in 7 games, Clare Kuepfer in second at 33 points, followed by Peter Carter at 32 points and Michael Meleg at 31 for 4th. This was just ahead of Andrew Korchok and Bev Vaillancourt who both scored 28 points. With the round robin scores that close, it was no surprise that the semifinals would also be closely contested, but it was Vaillancourt and Kuepfer who held on to their higher seedings as both won their matches by a score of 9-5. In the finals, Roger Vaillancourt prevailed over Clare Kuepfer by a score of 9-3 for the Pool B title.
The competitive A pool featured 2 of the 4 semifinalists from the World Championships two months prior, and all 4 of the semifinalists from the Ontario Championships 3 months prior. The World Championship 3rd place finisher, Roy Campbell, and the Ontario Championship runner-up, Jon Conrad, would both be joined by Nathan Walsh at a melancholy 27 points, and all miss the semifinal cutoff by one point. Making the playoffs were Ray Beierling (28 points), Jeremy Tracey (31), Andrew Hutchinson (31) and Connor Reinman (36).
In the semifinals, Reinman met Beierling for the second time, with the previous meeting at the 2019 Ontario Championships going to Reinman by a score of 12-8. Beierling would get an early lead after he scored a 2-peg-rebound-20 to tie the first round, and then hold his hammer in the following round for a 3-1 lead. Reinman gained a 5-3 lead after he successfully converted 4 hanger-20s over the 3rd and 4th round. That would prove to be the underlying story of the match in the final 2 rounds as well, as Beierling generally matched Reinman in open 20 scoring, but the vast majority of Beierling misses landed short, and Reinman converted each opportunity for a 20, ultimately giving him a 9-3 victory.
In the other semifinal, Hutchinson advanced to a 6-0 lead purely on open 20 dominance after not missing once in the opening 3 rounds. Tracey would miss his first shot in round 4, but gain the advantage on Hutchinson after making a long ricochet 20 that was followed by a Hutchinson open 20 miss. However, a missed takeout from Tracey, and then a missed takeout 20 on his final shot, would give Hutchinson an 8-0 lead. In the 5th round, Hutchinson managed to get 2 discs on the board and spent his remaining shots working his discs into the 10 on opposite sides of the board. Knowing a tie would give the semifinal victory to Hutchinson, Tracey attempted a nearly impossible shot for the 2 points, which was missed, giving Hutchinson a 10-0 victory, and the other spot in the finals.
The early rounds of the finals featured lots of 20 scoring, but Reinman led 4-2 after 3 rounds as Hutchinson missed chances to tie both the second and third rounds as he failed to make his final open 20 in both rounds. In the 4th and 5th round Reinman got an early 20 edge, causing Hutchinson to go on the offensive in search of an equalizing 20. In both rounds he was able to get a few shots for a takeout-20, but none were ultimately successful, and Reinman soon had an 8-2 lead in the first-to-11 match.
Reinman had a lead in the 6th round as well, but momentum seemed as though it might be stalling on his side of the board as he missed on a takeout that gave Hutchinson an open board. This time Hutchinson made his final two open 20s, climbing back from a deficit to tie the round for a 9-3 score. Hutchinson then capitalized on an early Reinman miss in round 7 by scoring a follow-through 20, which gave him a lead he'd not relingquish as he'd push the score to 9-5. But that's as far as the comeback would make it, as Reinman scored a hanger-20 early in round 8, and carry on to win the match 11-5.
The victory is Reinman's 2nd singles title on the NCA Tour, and he's in an early lead on the NCA Tour for 2019-2020 thanks to three Top 3 finishes. However according to Reinman, his NCA Tour hopes are low this season due to school committments in Indiana that may render him unavailable for the remainder of the season.
It's worth mentioning how astonishing the imagery is at the Turtle Island event. The crokinole tournament already sets itself apart from the rest with unique t-shirt designs for each year of the tournament, and the setting of the Tuscarora Nation House is pretty special as well thanks to some beautiful Indigenous imagery. The trophy design and craftmanship of Moochie Printup is pretty spectacular and was well showcased on the trophy table at this year's event.
Reinman's second round performance of 36 points in 7 games also involved scoring 97 20s (which adjusts to 138.57 20s in 10 games), a new record high at the Turtle Island event, and good for 6th all-time in the 20s record book. With all that said, it's pretty easy to tell which road he took on his drive home.