NCA Players Championship - Hutchinson v Reinman - SemifinalSeptember 20, 2022
A Semifinal game from the singles competition of the 2022 National Crokinole Association Players Championship between Andrew Hutchinson and Connor Reinman.
A Semifinal game from the singles competition of the 2022 National Crokinole Association Players Championship between Andrew Hutchinson and Connor Reinman.
The Ontario Singles Crokinole Championship has been a marquee event in the crokinole circuit for over 40 years, while the National Crokinole Association Tour attained prominence immediately after it was formed in 2009. Both competitions have been won by the greats of the game, and on May 6th in Elmira Josh Carrafiello joined the prestigious list of Ontario winners, while Connor Reinman joined the coveted list of NCA Tour Champions.
56 players arrived in Elmira (34 in the competitive, 22 in recreational) to compete for the Ontario title and to get one last tune-up before the World Championships. The event was the final stop on the 2022-2023 NCA Tour, and three players were in competition for the title. Connor Reinman had the lead coming into the event, as he had much of the year, and could only be surpassed by Ray Beierling (needing at least a trip to the finals) and Jason Beierling (needing a tournament victory).
Ray Beierling’s Tour hopes were dashed after the preliminary round. He scored 44 points in 10 games for 6th in his pool, knocking him into the B Pool in the afternoon. He was surpassed by Robert Bennett, Kris Flossbach, Jeremy Tracey, and Josh Carrafiello. Carrafiello grabbed the last qualifying spot from the group with 50 points, ahead of Jon Conrad’s 47.
Jason Beierling’s chances remained intact when he scored 58 points in 11 games for second in his group, behind Reinman’s tournament leading 69 points. Ray Kappas also advanced with 58 points, and was joined by Clare Kuepfer who got 50 points, just ahead of Peter Carter (49) and Reid Tracey (47).
The third competitive pool was led by Ron Langill, Nolan Tracey and Andrew Hutchinson. Tom Johnston advanced as well with 45 points in 10 games ahead of Nathan Walsh’s 42 and Jeff McKeen’s 40.
The Recreational division was also one to watch as the recreational side of the NCA Tour was up for grabs. Vuth Vann needed a strong showing to finish ahead of the emerging Grant Flick, and he was off to a good start, grabbing the top seed heading into the playoffs. Flick just missed the playoffs with 42 points in 10 games for 5th, as Julie Bonnett-Woodley scored 44 for 4th. In the semifinals though Bonnett-Woodley would defeat Vann, while Kevin Ranney defeated David Stokoe in the other semifinal. Ranney claimed the recreational division with a 10-6 win in the finals over Bonnett-Woodley. Vann would finish in 3rd place, but his 137 tour points weren’t enough, as Grant Flick scored 138 and won the 2022-2023 Recreational NCA Tour.
Shifting back to the competitive division, Mark Gallas impressed in the afternoon C pool, first defeating Ab Leitch 10-6, then defeating Bob Jones (who eliminated Darren Carr 10-8 in the other semifinal) by a score of 9-7. Ray Beierling was in fine form in the afternoon, getting the top seed in the B pool into the playoffs, and then proceeding to win 10-4 over Nathan Walsh and 10-6 over Reid Tracey. Walsh defeated Roy Campbell 10-6 for third.
The A Pool action saw an extremely large gap emerge between the playoff contenders and the rest of the field. A whopping 12 points separated Carrafiello in 4th from Clare Kuepfer in 5th. Connor Reinman earned the top seed at 70 points in 11 games, and scored 148 20s. The 20s score was almost an Ontario Championships record, good enough for 3rd all-time and just 4 20s back of Nathan Walsh’s record from 2013. Andrew Hutchinson was the second seed with 65 points, Jeremy Tracey (making his 7th top 4 appearance of the season) was the third seed with 58 points, followed by Carrafiello with 57.
With Jason Beierling finishing 7th and failing to make the playoffs, Connor Reinman’s maiden NCA Tour title was sealed, but undoubtedly he was looking to defend his 2019 Ontario Singles Championship.
Both semifinals were tight and tense affairs. Hutchinson and Tracey played a meticulous match. The decisive moment may have come when Tracey scored a 20 for Hutchinson in the final round when trailing 8-6. Tracey did fight back to level the round, but Hutchinson only needed a tie and clinched in by making his last open 20 for a 9-7 win.
While one semifinal ended with the crokinole version of an own goal, the other semifinal began with one when Reinman scored a 20 for Carrafiello in the first round. But that round would also end in a tie when Reinman made a follow-through 20 on his last shot. From 5-1 down Reinman reeled off 6 points for a 7-5 lead, and was in position to win the match in the 7th round, but a missed takeout opened the door for Carrafiello who took advantage to tie the match at 7-7, and then win it in the next round for a 9-7 match victory.
The 3rd place match saw the 2022-2023 NCA Tour nearly end as it had began, with Reinman facing Tracey in a rematch of the NCA Players Championship last June. Reinman won that match in Wilmot, and in Elmira he came back from down 8-0 to win 10-8 to finish 3rd.
That left the Ontario Championship match between two players who still actively play cues. It was Hutchinson’s 9th finals appearance in a singles event on the NCA Tour, and his first at the Ontario Singles Championship. For Carrafiello it was his first ever fingers final or top 4 appearance.
Carrafiello looked unfazed in his first-time finals appearance and was largely error-free in the early rounds. Hutchinson hadn’t found an open-20 rhythm and had a couple takeout errors that led to Carrafiello having an 8-2 lead in the race to 11. Another takeout error from Hutchinson early in the 6th round gave Carrafiello the chance to keep numerous discs in play behind the pegs, and he prevented Hutchinson from having a 20-chance for a 10-2 lead.
With his back against the wall Hutchinson’s play improved and he somewhat comfortably won the next two rounds to stay alive at 10-6. But Carrafiello won the 20-race to start round 7 and again had discs on his side of the board. Hutchinson missed two chances at a double peel to force play back into the middle, and Carrafiello clinched the match with a 12-6 victory.
The win is an impressive one for Josh Carrafiello who became the 13th different person to win the Ontario Singles Championship dating back to 1980, joining the list of crokinole legends like Dan Shantz, Leo Gaessler and Joe Fulop, and the modern-day titans of Justin Slater, Brian Cook, Ray Kappes and Connor Reinman. Carrafiello has chosen to play cues at the upcoming 2023 World Championships; the WCC schedule unfortunately robbing us of a chance to see one of the top players in the fingers division.
Connor Reiman was declared the 2022-2023 NCA Tour Champion after a very impressive season, winning three events (NCA Players, Owen Sound and Elmira) and being the only player to make the top 4 in every event played (7 in total). He becomes the 6th different winner of the NCA Tour after its 13th season.
Ray Beierling finished 2nd on the Tour, having also won three events (Ontario Doubles, US Open Doubles and Chatham) but only having a 3rd place against Reinman’s additional 2nd place finish. This is Beierling’s seventh 2nd place finish on the NCA Tour, to go along with two Tour victories.
Andrew Hutchinson rounded out the NCA Tour podium with one win (Belleville), two 2nd places (Owen Sound and Ontario Doubles) and a 3rd place (NCA Players). The 3rd place finish on the Tour is Hutchinson’s second-best Tour finish after his runner-up performance in 2019-2020.
So that concludes the 2022-2023 NCA Tour. A Tour which returned crokinole from the covid-19 slumber, and pivoted quickly to make up for missing tournaments to include 4 tournaments on the NCA Tour for the first time; in Wilmot at the NCA Players Championship, in Elmira for the Elmira Winter Classic, in Chatham for the Frosty Flick, and in Voorheesville for the US Open.
What’s next for the NCA remains to be seen. An Annual General Meeting has been called for June 14th which should shine more light on what the future holds; more info available here.
But competitive crokinole has not yet met it’s crescendo, as the World Crokinole Championships returns this year in Tavistock for its 22nd edition.
Defeated in the semifinals in the prior year the Beierlings returned to Voorheesville with the goal of becoming 2-time US Open Champions. While the chants of USA rang out from time-to-time, it was two newly formed all-Canadian teams that the Beierlings defeated in their quest for the title.
The 3rd edition of the US Open Crokinole Championships promised to be the best yet with a full house of teams selling out the competition slots well in advance of event. With 32 teams in attendance, players came in from southwestern Ontario, Baltimore, Charleston, Chicago, Florida, New Hampshire, Ohio, Maine, Brooklyn, Houston, and Dallas. The crokinole tournament might be better described as a festival of crokinole that celebrates the community that can forged from the game. And all players were welcomed warmly into Voorheesville crokinole scene.
The weekend’s itinerary unofficially kicked off when out of town players started arriving Thursday night, and quickly finding themselves called upon for crokinole action. The first official agenda item for the weekend was a Friday disc golf tournament, of which Voorheesville’s Jason Molloy appears to be successfully recruiting more and more crokinole players to partake each year. (I was told, by others Molloy had converted, that I should take up the sport no less than three times over the course of the weekend.)
However, the bulk of players arrived in time for the Friday night social held at the local brewery, which also featured live music, a Bruins game on TV, and about half a dozen crokinole boards that were quickly in use. A little while later the first official crokinole event of the weekend took place with 52 people participating in a hole survivor tournament. The competition involves players starting out with a pre-set number of discs (it was 4 in this case), and attempting to sink open-20s. With each made shot the player retains their disc, and with each miss the player loses the disc, until eventually only one player has any discs remaining. Mike McTague, certainly one of the top Voorheesville players, won the event, extinguishing any Canadian-thoughts that victory at the US Open would be a certainty for the northerners.
More crokinole and socialization followed the hole survivor conclusion. Even with the brewery closing early on the Friday night, there was a few more hours of crokinole action after players returned to their accommodations.
The American Legion in Voorheesville has warmly welcomed the crokinole activity that has been spurred on in the town over the last few years. The US Open participants gobbled down breakfast sandwiches on the main floor of the Legion before collecting each collecting their own US Open emblazoned drinking glass, paint brush (for collecting wax in the ditch) and pen (affixed with a light for inspecting whether discs are touching the boundary lines).
The preliminary round split the 32-teams into 3 pools (designated as Ales, Lagers and Ciders). The pools had been drawn up randomly via a live stream in the week leading up to the event, and from that point there was wide agreement that the Ales group looked the toughest. However, all 32 teams would proceed to the playoffs, so the preliminary round was only used for seeding.
The top 2 seeds from the preliminary round came from the Lagers group as Beierling/Beierling and Hutchinson/Walsh finished 1st and 2nd. The Brooklyn team of Marc Ponzio/David Jefferson finished 3rd in the group and got the 8-seed for the playoffs. Out of the Ales group came the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 7th seeds which were Jason Molloy/Mike McTague of Voorheesville, Paul Brubacher/Ron Langill, Nick Ozmore (New Hampshire)/Roy Campbell, and Reid and Jeremy Tracey. The 4th, 9th and 10th seeds were all Voorheesville teams coming from the Ciders group with Brian Christofel/Kevin Jobin-Davis in 4th, Matt Hotopp/Tyler Reynolds in 9th and John Powell/Tom Ensslin in 10th.
Before the playoffs began the Extra Pint Crokinole Club had a quick ceremony where they awarded Travis Keener and Justin Frerich their own club banners. Keener (Toledo, Ohio) and Frerich (Dallas) both recently started their own chapters of the Extra Pint Crokinole Club, and with the ceremony complete were now formally apart of the Extra Pint Crokinole’s extended family.
With all teams seeded, the playoffs began. A 32-team bracket was established with single elimination format to determine the US Open champion. The first round only saw two cases of the lower-seeded team advancing in the 16 matches that were played. The 20th seeded team of Seth Frank/Brian Monaco beat the 13th-seeded Dwight Anderson/Justin Perry by a score of 7-5, while the 18th-seeded Larry Stafford/Michael Stafford won 8-6 over the 15th-seeded Ben Harding/Michael Barth.
Into the round of 16 the 20th-seeded Frank/Monaco team pulled off another upset, beating 4th-seed Brian Christofel/Kevin Jobin-Davis 8-2, while the 11th-seeded team of Chet Boehlke Jr/Ehern Lewis also scored an 8-2 upset over Nick Ozmore/Roy Campbell.
That brought the action into the quarterfinals. The top-seeded Beierlings continued to look strong earning the 3rd-straight 8-0 victory by defeating Brooklyn’s Ponzio/Jefferson. In the all-Canadian quarterfinal Reid and Jeremy Tracey won a convincing 8-2 over Andrew Hutchinson and Nathan Walsh. There was also and all-Voorheesville quarterfinal where Jason Molloy/Mike McTague won 8-4 against Chet Boehlke Jr/Ehern Lewis. The last quarterfinal pitted the 5th-seeded Brubacher/Langill against the red-hot 20th-seeded Frank/Monaco. Brubacher/Langill narrowly ended the streak of Frank/Monaco, winning by a score of 7-5.
There were consolation brackets for all of the teams eliminated in the playoffs, and all of the teams taken out in the quarterfinals were in the running for what was a secretive and much-hyped 5th place award. The award, designed and featuring Seth Frank, was unveiled in the morning to much fanfare.
Seth Frank himself remained in the contention for the award when Frank/Monaco won 8-4 against Ponzio/Jefferson. Hutchinson/Walsh defeated Boehlke/Lewis 8-2 in the other consolation semifinal. The battle for the 5th-place award drew a bit of a crowd and Frank put on a show with some spectacular round-winning shots, but it was Hutchinson/Walsh who would take the match 8-6 along with the one-of-a-kind 5th place award.
In the morning there was also the announcement that the crokinole board that the championship match would be played on would be raffled off. The board, manufactured by Tracey Boards, was advertised by the tournament organizers as “a good starter board.” (A line which was repeated several more times throughout the day whenever a Tracey was within earshot.) When the raffle was drawn, Lizz Donnelly of Brooklyn became the owner of the 2023 US Open Championship board.
Shifting back to the championship action, the semifinals were set. An all-Canadian semifinal of Beierling/Beierling against the first-time pairing of Brubacher/Langill began play to few spectators as the crowd gathered around the other semifinal. In the other match Reid and Jeremy Tracey played the hometown favourites of Molloy/McTague.
Brubacher/Langill began their match (now playing first to 9 points) with a 4-0 lead as they were superior in open 20 shooting. They even had an advantage in the 3rd round with hammer and two discs on the board, until the Beierlings managed to use one Brubacher/Langill disc as a guard, while they hid their own disc behind it. Brubacher tried to make the combination-takeout through his own but failed to do so and the Beierlings took advantage to win the round, and tie things up at 4-4. Leading 6-4 Brubacher/Langill put pressure on late into the round on the Beierlings’ hammer, forcing Ray Beierling to have to make an open 20 to win the round, which he did to make it 6-6. From there the Beierlings were the superior team in 20-shooting and they captured the last two rounds to win the match 10-6.
One year earlier Molloy/McTague earned an emphatic victory in the US Open semifinal when the beat the Beierlings, and now the crowd were hoping they could repeat in defeating another Canadian team. The Tracey’s were leading 5-3 when a nervy 5th-round took place that looked like it could be decisive for the match. Both sides narrowly missed on 20’s attempts leaving four discs on the board (2 for each side) on the Tracey’s hammer. The door was opened for Molloy/McTague to win the round following a missed shot from Reid Tracey, but he redeemed himself with a double takeout on his next shot, setting up a 7-3 lead for the Traceys. In the 6th round the Traceys looked to be on the verge of victory as they still led by a 20 even after McTague made a brilliant rebound-20. But Jeremy Tracey lost his shooter on successive takeout attempts, and Jason Molloy respond with the open-20 to salvage one point for 8-4. Things got even more intense when a well-played round from the Traceys left them a shot to win the match, but Reid missed on the final shot takeout and the score was 8-6. But Reid Tracey redeemed himself once again in the following round, first scoring a 20 on his second-last shot to tie the round, and then making a double-takeout on his last shot to guarantee the semifinal victory.
The last match played at the Legion was a 10-4 3rd place victory for Molloy/McTague over Brubacher/Langill as the crowd headed back to the brewery for the championship match.
The championship would have the Beierlings going for their 9th NCA doubles title, which would tie them with Fred Slater for most all-time, and keep both of them in the hunt for the 2022-2023 NCA Tour victory. For the Traceys, a win would mean the exacting of some revenge in distinct ways. For Reid, his best ever doubles finish was a 2nd place at the 2019 World Championships, missing the world title by one point to the Beierlings. For Jeremy, the Beierlings had defeated him and Andrew Hutchinson by a 12-10 score at the Ontario Doubles Championship back in November.
The tournament organizers set the stage of the championship, affixing a spot-light above the championship board, running a digital scoreboard, and relaying an overhead video feed of the action to TVs inside the brewery. The first half of the match was well-played, but featured 6 mostly-comfortable holds of hammer, and the score was tied 6-6 in the race to 12 points. The hammer teams hadn’t found themselves under any pressure until a ricochet-20 from Jeremy Tracey went unanswered following two Beierling 20-attempts, and the Traceys had the first steal to go ahead 8-6.
The 8th round looked like it could go either way late into the round, but Jason Beierling got a break-through rebound-20 that returned the match to level-pegging at 8-8. Into round 9 the Traceys won the early 20-race, but the Beierlings responded twice with takeout-20s. The Traceys responded the first time with an open 20, but missed the second and the Beierlings held the hammer to lead 10-8. In the 10th round it was the Beierlings winning the 20-race, but this time the Traceys weren’t able to generate the necessary 20 to tie the round. Jason Beierling missed an open 20 chance to seal the victory, but it still left Jeremy Tracey with a very tough follow-through-20 to extend the match. When he missed, it clinched the Beierlings 12-8 US Open victory, and confetti rained down on the board as the players shook hands.
With the victory complete the Beierlings took part in the Extra Pint tradition of downing the yard to cap off the 2023 US Open Championship. But even then the night was not complete. Players remained jovial and socializing, and of course playing crokinole well into the night. Representatives from various American crokinole clubs swapped stories, ideas and visions for how they wanted to further grow the game of crokinole in their respective cities. Each of them, and in Voorheesville especially, seemed to be on the right path. The enthusiasm for crokinole, and the effort some individuals have put into establishing their own clubs is reminiscent of the energy of the early days of the NCA. However in the early days of the NCA there was no road map to follow, and some energy went mis-directed as people were still figuring out how to run a crokinole club or tournament. With a greater support base and collective knowledge of how to run crokinole gatherings, combined with this level of zest for the game, crokinole’s growth in America is not inevitable, but it is extremely promising.
For more stories about the US Open, Andrew Hutchinson’s latest podcast episode includes many interviews from the event. Ryan Kaczynski of the Brooklyn Crokinole Club commentated the Tracey/Tracey v Molloy/McTague semifinal here. Other vides are appearing the Extra Pink Texas YouTube channel, and CrokinoleCentre also has a semifinal and championship match. The full results from the tournament can be viewed on the Extra Pint website.
The success of Justin Slater on the crokinole board during the 2010s led to him amassing a record number of WCC and NCA victories, but between the final tournament played pre-covid and the first few events of 2023, Slater was in his longest ever singles tournament drought. He ended that streak in a comfortable fashion by winning the 2023 Forest City Flickers Crokinole Tournament in London.
69 players entered into the London tournament, the largest attendance in the 12 year history of the event. The tournament was hosted at the London Bridge Centre which received rave reviews from some players for it’s substantial space and quality tables and chairs. There were 39 players entered into the recreational division, and another 30 in the competitive.
The Recreational action has been heating up with an intense battle on the NCA Tour. Vuth Vann and Voeun Vann have been near the top following strong performances in Elmira and at the Ontario Doubles, and were sitting 1st and 2nd on the Tour coming into London. Michigan contenders, Grant Flick and Jacob Warren, both finished in the top 4 in Chatham as their first entry on the 2022-2023 Tour and were set to make a late charge for the Recreational title if they could manage another good performance in London.
Both Flick and Warren made the final 4, advancing as the top seeds, and were joined by Joe Richards and Ron Reesor of the host Forest City Flickers crokinole club, with Robin Baillie, David Skipper and Vuth Vann just on the outside of the playoff cutoff in 5th, 6th and 7th. In the semifinals, both Flick and Warren defeated their London-based opponents, before Warren won the final 10-4 over Flick.
The results from London ensures that all 4 of Vuth Vann, Voeun Vann, Grant Flick and Jacob Warren have a chance to win the NCA Tour’s Recreational division at the NCA Tour Finale.
The 30 players in the competitive division were split into 3 pools in the morning. Although a few players advanced comfortably into the afternoon A group, there was a rather incredibly tight race for the cutoff. 43 points and 86 20s, scored by Jason Beierling in 9 games, were what was ultimately needed to advance, and 8 players were within 2 points of that score.
In the afternoon A group the tight race for the cutoff continued. Connor Reinman set a new tournament-20s—record with 124 in 9 games, which averages to 137.8 over 10 games and is 15 20s better than Ray Beierling’s previous record. Reinman also had the high points score with 43, which Ray Beierling also scored for the 2nd seed. Justin Slater scored 40 points for 3rd, and Jason Beierling got the final spot with 39, just ahead of Roy Campbell at 38, Andrew Hutchinson at 37 and Ron Langill at 37.
In the semifinals, the lower seeds came away as winners with Jason Beierling defeating Reinman 10-2, and Justin Slater reversing the result of his last two matches against Ray Beierling (losses in Wilmot and Elmira) by winning 10-4. The finals was a confident showing from Slater who never looked to be in much trouble, as he won the tournament with a 9-1 win over Jason Beierling.
In Pool B, Josh Carrafiello was the class of the field. He missed the A group cutoff by one point, but dominated the B pool round robin with 51 points in 9 games. It was Rex Johnston however who would win the group, defeating Carrafiello 10-6 in the final, after scoring 43 points for the 2nd seed, ahead of Clare Kuepfer with 39 points and Gerald Kuepfer and Jeff McKeen with 38.
Lastly in the C Pool, Tyson Kuepfer and Mike Beaton advanced to the finals with 52 and 47 points, ahead of Gloria Walsh and Matthew Knapp at 46 and 45 points respectively. Kuepfer would claim the C title in a narrow 10-8 win over Beaton in the finals.
The NCA Tour ventured into new territory having its first-ever February event, hosted in Chatham for the first time, and for the first time staged in the venue of a private enterprise. That combination brought the February Frosty Flick, hosted at the Turns and Tales Board Game Cafe and Bookstore.
A number of the NCA Tour regulars joined a decent contingent of local new players, and the 49 flickers packed in like sardines into the front room of the Turns and Tales cafe, where passers-by could get a glimpse of the crokinole action through the window. Also joining the competitors was a relatively large amount of media attention. A local radio station, CKSY, had been chatting about the tournament all week as one of the co-hosts registered to play, local news papers ran stories on the event, and a local media company, Chatham Torch, ran a livestream of the crokinole action.
On the competition side of things, 21 players entered the competitive division, and 28 went into recreational. The Vann brothers of Vuth and Voeun entered the recreational division as top contenders given their high standing on the recreational NCA Tour standings, but would have a tough challenge as Grant Flick, 2019 Recreational World Championship 3rd place finisher was also in attendance.
All three were in contention in the afternoon with Flick taking the top seed into the playoffs with 42 points, followed by Jacob Warren at 39 and Voeun Vann at 36. Al Little narrowly took the final playoff spot with 34, just ahead of David Skipper and Vuth Vann at 32 points. In the playoffs Voeun Vann and Grant Flick prevailed in the semifinals to set up a championship showdown, where ultimately Flick won the match to capture the Chatham Recreational title.
The competitive division split the field into two pools for the morning. The A pool had a larger concentration of tough customers, most of whom gathered point totals in similar neighbourhoods with Andrew Hutchinson leading the way at 62 points in 10 games, followed by Josh Carrafiello at 59, Justin Slater at 55, Jeremy Tracey at 53 and Ray Beierling at 52.
The B pool was less competitive and Connor Reinman ran away with first at 60 points over 9 games. The point total (pro-rated to 66.7 over 10 games) was the tied for the 2nd highest this 22/23 NCA Tour, behind Justin Slater’s 68.3 in Wilmot’s preliminary round, and tied with Andrew Hutchinson’s mark in the preliminary of Belleville. Nathan Walsh was 2nd in the pool with 51 points, followed by Ron Langill at 46 and Reid Tracey at 41.
The afternoon groups also split into A/B with the top/bottom half scorers heading to the A and B groups respectively.
In the B group, Nolan Tracey led the way with 51 points in 9 games. Clare Kuepfer and Jeff McKeen scored 47 and 46 to finish 2nd and 3rd. Travis Keener, organizer of the new Extra Pint chapter in Ohio, scored 43 points for 4th, with a 4 point gap back to Dan Hepburn for 5th.
The playoffs saw a reversal of the round robin action, with Keener eliminating Nolan Tracey in the semifinal, and meeting Kuepfer in the final following his victory over Jeff McKeen. Keener was on fire in the B group title game, winning the race to 9 by a score of 10-0 over Clare Kuepfer.
In Group A Justin Slater entered the playoffs as the top seed after earning 54 points in 10 games. He also scored 117 20s, which was the tied for the 2nd highest 20 count on this year’s NCA Tour, only beaten by Ray Beierling’s 122.5 from the Belleville preliminary round. Connor Reinman tied Slater’s 20 total of 117 and scored 48 points to finish 3rd. Jeremy Tracey scored 50 points for 2nd, and Ray Beierling had 46 for 4th.
Josh Carrafiello earned his highest ever fingers result on the NCA Tour, finishing 5th after scoring 41 points, ahead of Andrew Hutchinson in 6th at 40.
There was a lot of excitement building in the room as the semifinal matches got underway, with everyone doing some mental calculations to determine the NCA Tour implications of the playoff matches. The story was pretty clear though, a Connor Reinman tournament victory would nearly clinch the Tour title, as only a select few would be able to catch up to him by winning all three of the following stops on the Tour.
Reinman was set to play Jeremy Tracey, in a rematch of the NCA Players Championship final where Reinman won 10-4. The players started off this semifinal evenly matched and after 4 rounds the score was 5-3 in Reinman’s favour. But Reinman’s open 20 shooting was superior in the next two rounds, as he scored 4 on 5 opportunities (80% success rate), while Tracey only managed 2 on 6 (33%), which gave Reinman the advantage needed to win the semifinal 9-3.
The other semifinal renewed the Ray Beierling and Justin Slater saga once again. By CrokinoleCentre’s records it was the 12th elimination singles matchup between the two. Slater entered the match with a 7-4 win-loss advantage, dating back to 2010, but Ray Beierling had won the previous encounter from the NCA Players Championship quarterfinals. The Chatham semifinal match began with the player’s showing similar aptitude on open 20s, but Slater was more error-prone on takeout shots and after 4 rounds Beierling had a 6-2 lead. The 5th round had the defining moment as Beierling was first to miss on an open 20, but Slater did not complete a takeout, and Beierling replied with a follow-through 20 to take a definitive edge, which he carried to a 10-2 victory.
The loss for Slater was the 4th consecutive singles tournament (dating back to Hamilton 2020) that he has qualified for the playoffs as the top seed and then lost the first elimination match. Amazingly, he has not had a single 4-tournament stretch without winning an event since 2009 when he first started playing.
Slater was able to rebound though and win a tremendous and thrilling 3rd place match against Jeremy Tracey, despite Slater having to deal with substantial crowd distractions, and despite Tracey making several final-shot takeout-20s.
That left the final between Connor Reinman and Ray Beierling. Reinman owned a 2-0 head-to-head record against Beierling, thanks to a pair of semifinal wins in 2019. The final was tied at 4-4 after some shaky play, but both player’s elevated their quality for the rest of the match. In rounds 5 and 6 and both players made classy follow-through-20, although Beierling won both rounds to lead 8-4.
Beierling had won the 20 race to start round 7, but Reinman made a brilliant rebound-20 and a string of open 20s to stay alive with the match now at 8-6. In round 8 Reinman missed his opening 20 and Beierling made the takeout and stuck his shooter onto a peg. The placement was so good Reinman was forced to take risky shots going for a 20, but when he missed Beierling pounced on the ricochet-20 and cruised to a 10-6 win and the Chatham title.
The win for Ray Beierling is his 17th, and first since 2017, NCA singles title. He is now firmly in the hunt for the NCA Tour victory, currently sitting in 3rd place, just behind Andrew Hutchinson.
Connor Reinman continues to lead the Tour, despite his 3-tournament win streak being snapped in Chatham. There are three events left on the NCA Tour, and Reinman can only be passed if Hutchinson or Beierling win 2 of the remaining events, or if any of the other players in the top 10 on the NCA Tour can manage hat-trick of wins or finals appearances to conclude the Tour.
Dear NCA Participants,
Beginning in 2015 I, Nathan Walsh, have held the very informal role of Chair of the NCA. I took over the position from Greg Matthison who started the NCA in 2009, and envisioned having a Tour with a 12-month calendar full of crokinole events, and a map that would boast new clubs sprouting up everywhere. The leadership of the NCA at the time was Greg, and anyone else who had a loud enough voice to have their opinions heard, and all decisions were made from the informal group that was simply close by whenever a vote was deemed necessary. I became the Chair because I just happened to be close by when a new Chair was needed.
For the most part that vision of Greg’s has been realized, and the NCA has become a worldwide benchmark for organized crokinole. It has become this because of the NCA participants that attend tournament after tournament on the NCA Tour. Even though the NCA has been successful with an unstructured leadership group, I believe it is time to change that.
I am writing to you today to propose the NCA moves one step closer to a formal organization by adopting a set of by-laws and committing to electing a Board of Directors for the first time. I have described the steps that will be taken to do so on the NCA Governance page.
By participating in NCA events you have participated in the success of the NCA, and you, along with your fellow participants, will form the member base of this new NCA. This membership base will elect a board, decide the path you want the NCA to take, and decide what role you want the NCA to play in the future of organized crokinole.
I think it’s important that we do not delay to take this step. The decisions on what the NCA should do, and what the NCA should be vary from person to person, and in the leadership role of the chair I have felt unable to act to with confidence without having a true mandate from the members of the NCA.
As popularity for crokinole and organized crokinole events has grown, I have heard passionate recommendations from lots of people for the NCA to take action on many different types of initiatives (from ideas for specific localities or tournaments, to broad global standards). I have subsequently then heard decisive objections to those ideas from other people. Stuck somewhere in the middle, I have guided the NCA to really only maintain a status quo.
In terms of formalities, I don’t think incorporating the NCA is necessary at this time. I believe the NCA can run on a very small budget, so incorporating for tax reasons or government funding is not necessary to accomplish the goals of the NCA.
However, I think it is vitally important that we establish a formal and transparent decision making structure, and I think it’s important we take this step now.
Whether we deserve it or not, the NCA is regarded as the global authority on crokinole, the NCA Tour has substantial prestige to the point that many tournament organizers want to be included in it, and many players regard their NCA Tour ranking with great importance.
As people from around the world have learned about crokinole for the first time, or become re-accustomed to the game, they have been looking for an organization that leads the way. Anyone who has spent time on the NCA Facebook page and seen the number of questions strangers ask about rules or board quality can attest to that.
These are the types of questions I don’t think can be answered by the NCA leadership as it stands today. But these are the types of questions that an elected NCA board, with a mandate from its members, can rightfully determine.
To put this into action we need an organizational framework. I have drafted a set of by-laws and accompanying documents to give you a sense of what this might look like (you can see those on the NCA Governance page). Ultimately the decision will be made by you, as members of the NCA.
To achieve this, I’m targeting the following timeline:
I will oversee the elections, and as such will not run for a position on the inaugural board.
If you do have opinions on crokinole and the NCA, whether those are large or small, ambitious or frivolous, consider running for the board, and absolutely vote in the upcoming election.
A position on the NCA Board of Directors should not come with hours upon hours of work, nor does the NCA need a Director to put in substantial time for the NCA to be successful. All the NCA needs are a few individuals who are passionate about the game of crokinole, and willing to articulate their vision for how the NCA can play apart in the game’s success.
Wilmot, Owen Sound, Elmira. Three tournaments entered by Connor Reinman. Three tournament victories for Connor Reinman. And if the scores can tell the story there’s no one particularly close to his level.
After a long break due to covid, organized crokinole’s return has not been uniform. Some clubs and events came back early, with others still waiting. Fortunately, the demand and enthusiasm for crokinole is hotter than ever. The January fixture on the NCA Tour has long been the Golden Horseshoe event in Hamilton, but it was confirmed in December that the event would not return in 2023. A determined Jeremy Tracey was not prepared to let the opportunity for Winter crokinole slip away and immediately set out to host a tournament on less than two months of preparation.
The result? The largest attended crokinole event outside of the World Championships.
Impressive, to say the least, it was to see 88 crokinole players file into the Gale Presbyterian Church for the Elmira Winter Crokinole Classic. To CrokinoleCentre’s knowledge this was the first big crokinole event hosted in Elmira, since the Ontario Crokinole Championships were held in Elmira in 1960.
At that 1960 edition of the provincial championships both fingers and cues players competed in the same division, and while that’s a novelty not seen in modern crokinole, it was fitting that this Elmira event also featured a Cues division with a number of the top competitors one would see at the World Championships.
This list included Lorraine Proud (4-time World Champion), Oscar Weber (2-time World Champion), Dave and Dennis Brubacher (2-time Doubles World Champions, and both past runner-ups in the singles), and Josh Carrafiello (1-time runner-up for the World Championship).
The 19 players were split into 2 preliminary round pools. Dave Brubacher, Marilyn Berge and Josh Carrafiello were the high scores out of Pool A, while Dennis Brubacher and Jon Brubacher scored the highest in Pool B.
In the afternoon Pool B category, Oscar Weber recovered from a sub-par morning to get the top seed for the B Final. He was joined by Art Proud who edged out Jeremy Brubacher in the tie-breaker for the second spot. Weber then won the B title with a 10-6 victory over Art Proud.
Lorraine Proud only made the afternoon A group by a slim 3 points from the preliminary round, but win in fine form scoring 50 points in 9 games for first place in the pool. Josh Carrafiello finished 2nd with 46 points, followed by Dave Brubacher at 45. The final spot in the semifinals came down to Dennis Brubacher and Mary Kreutzer, who both scored 42 points, but it was Brubacher who got the playoff spot on tiebreaks.
While all four semifinalists have been around the Cues game for a number of years, both of the semifinal matchups were first-time elimination matchups. Dennis Brubacher defeated Lorraine Proud 9-5, while Carrafiello denied the all-Brubacher final by defeating Dave Brubacher 10-6.
Dave Brubacher avenged a 2019 World Championship loss to Lorraine Proud by winning the 3rd-place game by a narrow 10-8 margin. Meanwhile in the championship match Carrafiello was unstoppable winning the match 10-0 to claim his first ever Cues tournament victory.
With this being the first cues tournament since the 2019 World Championships, and perhaps the last before the 2023 World Championship, it was great to see the competitive fire alive with so many of the players, and sure helps to bring excitement prior to the World Championship tournament.
The Fingers play brought in competitors from Ohio, Indiana and New York, along with many new players from in and around Elmira.
The Recreational division was won by Jo-Ann Carter, in a tight final game over Graham Gaessler 9-7. Tournament new-comer Peter Stokoe had an impressive outing to finish 4th, defeated 10-4 by Vuth Vann in the 3rd-place match. Garth Harrison won the B title over Nolan Bechtel, and Crystal Campbell won the C title over Reuben St. Louis.
In the Competitive division the players were set into 4 groups for the preliminary round with 16 advancing to the A group in the afternoon. Top scores from the morning all came in around an average of 6-points per game. Kris Flossbach, Ron Langill and Justin Slater scored 61, 60 and 59 points respectively in 10 games from Pool A. While Nathan Walsh (54 points), Jeremy Tracey (53) and Ray Beierling (55) were the top scores in Pools B, C and D through 9 games.
The cut-off for the top 16 was tight. The top 3 scorers from each group, plus the next 4 highest scorers advanced. The top 3 in Pool A were a run-away, but Paul Brubacher and Peter Carter both managed to earn spots in the top 16 as well with 50 and 47 points. In Pool D Connor Reinman and Nolan Tracey tied for 3rd (10 points back of 2nd), but both managed to advance into the top 16 also with 44 points in 9 games (pro-rates to 48.9 over 10). Jason Malloy earned the final spot with 41 points from Group C (pro-rates to 45.5 over 10 games). In Group B James Medway and Simon Dowrick had tied with 40 points for 3rd-place, but Dowrick unfortunately lost on the tie-breaker and trailed Malloy by 1 point for the final top 16 entry.
In the afternoon Kevin Bechtel had a storming round robin showing in Pool D, with 42 points in 7 games, but Dan Hepburn (who only scored 9 points less in the round robin) won the D title with a 10-8 win in the finals.
Bob Jones, playing in his first tournament since November 2019, got into the C finals via a tie-break over Clare Kuepfer, and then defeated Reid Tracey 10-6 to win the C pool.
In the B pool, Tyson Kuepfer got the 1st seed in the finals with 40 points in the 9 games, but was followed by a log-jam of Simon Dowrick at 38, Jeff McKeen at 37, and Fred Slater and Raymond Kappes at 36. Tyson Kuepfer would win the B pool final by a score of 9-5 over Dowrick.
The top 16 group playoff was structured in the same way as the World Championships with the 16 players split into two pools of 8, and players in both pools needing to finish in the top 2 to make the semifinals.
Both pools saw comfortable margins emerge between the two advancing players and the rest of the field. Nathan Walsh and Connor Reinman scored 39 and 38 points, with Andrew Hutchinson finishing 3rd in the group at 31 points, followed by Nolan Tracey at 27. In the other group Justin Slater scored 43 points followed by Ron Langill at 37 points, with a 6-point gap back to Roy Campbell at 31 points, and Jeremy Tracey at 27.
That setup the semifinals between Connor Reinman and Justin Slater, and Ron Langill and Nathan Walsh. The Reinman v Slater match was the highlight of the event in terms of quality of play, even featuring a double-perfect-round which you can watch on the Tracey Boards YouTube channel. Reinman came away victorious with a 10-4 win over Slater to make the finals. The Walsh v Langill semifinal featured less precise play, but did have some drama when Langill, leading 8-2, missed on a final takeout shot, leaving his opponents disc in the 15 but, thanks to a flashlight review, his shooter just barely stayed in the 15 as well to win the match 9-3. Slater rebounded in the 3rd-place game and continued his dominating streak over Nathan Walsh with a 10-2 victory.
That left Connor Reinman going for his 3rd tournament win, and a commanding lead, on the 2022-2023 NCA Tour, against Ron Langill in his first ever singles championship game.
Through the first half of the match Langill was the better shooter on open 20s but Reinman was able to keep a fighting chance in each round with superior board play. In round one Reinman equalized with a takeout-20, but missed a hanger-20 entirely giving Langill an opening. Langill was unable to convert a touch combination 20 and Reinman took the round for 2-0. Round two Langill was again better on Open 20s but missed chances on two heavy-hangers to tie or win the round and trailed 4-0. Langill scored a comfortable win in round 3 to cut the deficit to 4-2, but lost the 20-race in round 4 and was forced to play 5 more shots before getting play back into the middle. From there he got a slim chance on another heavy-hanger to tie round, but missed and Reinman led 6-2.
In the last half of the match Reinman was equal or better on open 20s, and was able to always maintain an advantage in the board play. In round 6 there was a narrow opening for Langill on a tough ricochet-20, but otherwise the chances were minimal. With Reinman leading 10-2 Langill had a lead, but left a hanger-20 for Reinman who tied the round and then won it a few shots later for a 12-2 championship victory.
With the win Reinman moves into first place on the 2022-2023 NCA Tour. No one has more than one tournament victory on this year’s Tour, except for Reinman was has three. But there are still four events on the Tour with Chatham up next at the end of February.
With the day rounding to a close, Jeremy Tracey took a moment to express gratitude for those who made the tournament a reality. Thanking the church group that provided lunch, along with Andrew Hutchinson, Roy Campbell and his wife for extensive efforts in tournament organization. And Tracey also thanked Willard Martin, who came donned in his World Crokinole Championship jacket, for his mentorship in Tracey starting his crokinole business, which no doubt was the first of many steps that led towards a tremendously successful 2023 Elmira Winter Crokinole Classic.
By the way, Jeremy Tracey is on a road-trip through the US making stops at various crokinole groups. Follow along on this Facebook page.