It took crokinole’s highest regarded doubles strategist 11 years and 3 partners, but with a 12-6 finals victory Jon Conrad, and Andrew Hutchinson, finally claimed their inaugural Ontario Doubles title.
The 10th edition of the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship brought in a record 34 teams with 14 playing in competitive and 20 playing in the recreational division. On the competitive side a full round-robin was played among the 14 teams to determine the 4 teams advancing to the semifinals, while the recreational division split the field randomly in the morning into two pools and then had an A and B pool in the afternoon to better group skill levels on the day.
On the Recreational side, Peter Carter and Tyson Kuepfer formed a strong team and scored 43 points in 7 games in the morning for the top spot in Group A, while Rex Johnston and Ab Leitch looked to be the toughest competition for them by taking tops in Group B with 45 points.
In the afternoon A Pool it was those two teams who ran away from the competition, but it was Carter and Kuepfer who took the top spot with 57 points in 9 games, as Johnston and Leitch finished second with 51 points. Grabbing third was Harvey and Joyce Atchinson who scored 41 points.
In the Recreational B pool the Owen Sound area team of Carman and Evelyn Hodgkinson took the top spot with 56 points in 9 games, followed by Doris Giddings and Phyllis Lightfoot at 50 points, and Brian Henry and Moochie Printup at 49 points.
The 14 teams making up the competitive division featured a number of top teams, and the field was also sprinkled with a few interesting partnerships. From the 2019 World Championships, 6 of the top 10 teams were in attendance, along with one-half of another 2 of those top 10 finishers from the WCC. Added into that mix was the newly formed team of Darren Carr and Robert Bonnett, both making their debut at the Ontario Doubles Championships, with lots of interest surrounding them and how their strong singles reputations would transfer into an initial foray into the elite doubles spotlight.
The competitive round robin play didn’t lead to many big swings in rankings as the top teams quickly found themselves at the top of the table. In fact, for the top 7 teams their ranking remained identical from the lunch break to the completion of the round. The Beierlings finished in the top spot with 75 points after 9 games and only surrendering one loss (5-3 to Reid and Nolan Tracey).
Roy Campbell and Jeremy Tracey were second with 74 points and lost 3 games by a score of 6-2 (to the Beierlings, Slaters and Conrad/Hutchinson), but won all 10 over games by scores of 6-2 or better. Jon Conrad and Andrew Hutchinson suffered two losses (6-2 to the Traceys and 8-0 to the Beierlings) but still racked up 72 points to finish fourth.
The final playoff spot went to the Slaters who score 69 points and only lost one game, 5-3 to Conrad/Hutchinson. Their solitary loss was combined with 5 draws which lowered their final ranking relative to the other top teams.
Finishing 5 and 6 points out of the playoffs were Reid and Nolan Tracey, and Robert Bonnett and Darren Carr. Both teams played well to only lose 3 and 2 games respectively throughout the day, but neither could manage enough big wins (6 points or more) to make the playoffs. All semifinalist teams earned 7+ victories by scores of 6-2, 7-1 or 8-0, while the Traceys and Bonnett/Carr only scored 6 and 5 victories by such a margin.
A cynical look would reveal that in some fashion the semifinals at this Ontario Doubles tournament have been rather stale. The four teams making the 2019 playoffs (Beierlings, Slaters, Tracey/Campbell, Conrad/Hutchinson) has essentially been repeated for 4 years in a row:
- 2018 Semifinalists: Beierlings, Slaters, Tracey/Campbell, Hutchinson/Reinman (Only difference being Reinman alongside Hutchinson rather than Conrad)
- 2017 Semifinalists: Beierlings, Slaters, Tracey/Campbell, Walsh/Reinman (Only difference being the absence of Conrad/Hutchinson)
- 2016 Semifinalists: Beierlings, Slaters, Conrad/Hutchinson, Campbell/Brubacher (Only difference being Brubacher with Campbell rather than Tracey)
This was trip #3 (out of 3 attempts) to the semifinals for Roy Campbell and Jeremy Tracey, but neither of their prior outings had ended successfully as both the 2017 and 2018 semifinal matches ended in 10-2 loses to Justin and Fred Slater. Their fortunes seemed to be headed in a similar direction as they trailed the “first-to-9” match by a score of 8-2 to Jon Conrad and Andrew Hutchinson.
Things started to turn for Campbell/Tracey, and even unravel for Conrad/Hutchinson though. Leading 8-4, Conrad/Hutchinson had the hammer and a slight edge in the round, until a sequence of 3 shots from Conrad (missed takeout leaving a hanger, opposition 20 scored, takeout attempt wrecking on a peg) gave Campbell and Tracey all the opportunities they needed to win the round and make the match 8-6.
In that 8th round things looked quite bad for Conrad and Hutchinson again as Hutchinson was the first to miss an open 20 attempt, and Conrad scored another opposition 20 shortly after. But the tides of crokinole turn sharply and sometimes painfully, as Hutchinson was able to leave back-to-back discs hidden behind the pegs to draw errors from Tracey, while Conrad responded crucially with consecutive open 20s to finally win the semifinal by a score of 10-6.
Beierlings vs Slaters is probably the marquee matchup at the Ontario Championships in any year, with the 2019 semifinal being the 5th head-to-head meeting. The Slaters came into the match holding a perfect streak of finals appearances, having made the championship match in each year they had entered the tournament (2014, 2016, 2017 and 2018). However in that time they have only earned one win over the Beierlings, that being in the finals in 2016). The Beierling’s also carried in an impressive record, making the finals of their own event in 6 of the first 9 years of the tournament (only missing in 2010, 2011 and 2017). That span also included 3 wins over the Slaters, once in 2018 in the finals, and twice in 2014 when the tournament used a “page playoff” format and the Beierlings won both the “1v2” match and the finals.
The match began quite competitively with strong open 20 scoring and very few mistakes. After 3 rounds the score was 4-2 for the Beierlings. Round 4 was crucial in the match as numerous discs sat on the board with both teams coy-fully positioning discs around the 15 circle. Jason Beierling earned MVP honours in the round as he came away with the only two takeout-20s of the round to put his team ahead 6-2.
Both teams traded steals in the next two rounds to make the match 8-4 with the Beierlings needing one more point. The Beierlings had a slim lead with the hammer when Jason Beierling scored a 20 for the opposition giving the Slaters the edge, but he made up for it on his very next shot, “pro-tracting” a long ricochet 20 to tie up the round. The Beierlings then won the ensuing 20 race to win the match 10-4.
The 2019 finals was Andrew Hutchinson’s first ODCC championship appearance, while for Conrad it was his third, and the Beierlings’ seventh. The Beierling’s carried in a record of 4-2 in championship matches, against Conrad’s record of 0-2 (previous finals losses with Barry Kiggins in 2010 and Tony Snyder in 2015).
Early in the final it did not appear that the 8-0 preliminary round victory for the Beierlings was weighing as much of a factor. The level of play was pretty high but a dichotomy was emerging between to two teams, as Conrad and Hutchinson were generally prevailing on open 20 success, while the Beierlings were more successful in board play and generating 20s when trailing. For the Beierlings, the deficiency on open 20s was too large to overcome and they were trailing 6-2 after four rounds.
In round 5 the Beierlings had the hammer and finally won a 20 race when Hutchinson missed long on his opening shot. The Beierlings extended that advantage and eventually had 2 discs on the board and open shot to gain a lead in the 20s. But Jason Beierling left a hanger, which was converted for a 20 by Hutchinson, and then Ray followed by also missing an open 20 to leave a hanger that was converted by Conrad. Hutchinson then sealed the round with a long ricochet 20 to push their lead to 8-2.
The Beierlings showed tremendous perseverance in the following round, having to hit several crucial open 20s as they saw the championship slipping from their grasp. They were able to hold steady to cut the lead to 8-4. Once again though Conrad and Hutchinson were superb on their open 20s in the following round, eventually getting a miss from the Beierlings and making the match 10-4 to move within one point of the title.
The Beierlings once again showed a lot of fight to win the 8th round after finding their groove in 20s scoring to stay alive at 10-6, and had the hammer going into the next round. The Beierlings even won the opening 20 race, but Conrad was able to score a touch 20, to which Jason Beierling did not answer, giving Conrad and Hutchinson a lead halfway through the round. Ray Beierling put the pressure on with a touch 20 of his own, but Conrad answered back to maintain their lead, which they would not relinquish as they won the match and the 2019 Ontario Doubles title 12-6.
As mentioned earlier, the win gives 4-time doubles world champion, Jon Conrad, a first Ontario Doubles title. Meanwhile self-proclaimed “singles specialist” Andrew Hutchinson picks up his first fingers doubles title, following a 2014 cues doubles world championship.
As always the inflated Tour points of a doubles event grants the ODCC significant implications on the NCA standings. The outcome of the event puts Jason Beierling and Andrew Hutchinson in a dead-tie for 1st on the Tour with 188 points (tie-breaker being a tie at the moment as well). Ray Beierling sits in 3rd with 187 points, followed by Jon Conrad and Connor Reinman at 181. Positions six through eight are held by Jeremy Tracey, Roy Campbell and Reid Tracey at 170, 169 and 167 points respectively. It’s worth mentioning Justin Slater already sits at 136 points despite have only played 3 events so far.
There are still 4 events (with the now late addition of the US Open Doubles event in April) on the 2019-2020 NCA Tour, with the next stop being after the holiday break in the schedule when the NCA comes to Hamilton in late January.