A new type of tournament format was trialed at the 2022 Scenic City Crokinole Classic, where the competition was doubles matches throughout the day, but players switched partners like an old-fashioned square dance. In part the tournament format would allow players to compete individually, while still being able to showcase their prowess on the types of shots that come up more often in doubles play.
The idea of using a progressive doubles format on the NCA Tour had been discussed for many years, as the format is commonly used by clubs, and is generally regarded as favourable for conversation and camaraderie around the crokinole board. With that said there was much anticipation about how the first-ever tournament utilizing this format would proceed.
44 competitors arrived in Owen Sound for the 10th edition of the Scenic City Classic, and the morning play saw the field split into 4 groups of 11. The players played 7 games each, mostly in the standard 2-on-2 doubles format, but the odd number did leave one table in each group with games of 2-on-1 play.
In Group A action Connor Reinman led the way with 44 points in 7 games, and was followed by Ron Langill at 41 and Jeremy Tracey at 38, who all made the top group for second round.
Promotion into the afternoon groups was determined by total points scored with no restriction on the number to advance from each group. Oddly that led to the situation where none of the top scores from Group B in the morning advanced into the top group for the afternoon. Simon Dowrick earned the top Group B score with 35, followed by Ray Kappes and Ray Beierling at 32.
Darren Carr earned the top score for the entire tournament in Group C with 48 points, with Andrew Hutchinson in second at 42 and Dan Hepburn at 37 points (37 points would prove to the cut-off for Pool A in the afternoon). Finally in Group D, Roger Vaillancourt and Peter Carter had the high scores at 47 and 46, with Bernie Range finishing 3rd at 35 points.
The afternoon groups had 8 players in Pools A-D, and 12 in Pool E. Even with some players perhaps out-of-position in the afternoon groups, the matches proved to be very competitive as played vied for one of the spots in the top 4 to advance to the semifinals.
In Pool E Jo-Ann Carter and Roy Czudnochowski advanced comfortably, while Gina Schick and Elmer Cook had closer calls at 35 and 34 points, just ahead of Robin Baille in 5th at 32 points. The semifinal round was 3 doubles games, where players again switched partners in each game so that they would all matchup once with each other. Jo-Ann Carter and Gina Schick were equal matches during the semifinals as both finished with 16 points in 3 games to advance to the Pool E finals. The finals was then just one first-to-9 points singles match to determine the victor. And again Schick and Carter were neck-and-neck, but it was Carter who prevailed with a 10-8 triumph.
In Pool D, Maxine Whitmore and Carl Weins narrowly missed the semifinals with 27 points each to finish 5th and 6th, just behind Doreen Sulkye at 28 and Gloria Walsh at 30 points in 4th and 3rd place respectively. Kathi Fisher and Jim Roth advanced with more breathing room to the semi-finals with 35 and 34 points, but the script was flipped in the semifinals as Walsh and Sulkye emerged with the top scores to make the finals. The Pool D final saw Sulkye race out to an 8-0 lead before the tide began to turn in favour of Walsh, who eventually levelled the match 8-8. But it was Sulkye who grabbed the victory in the winner-take-all final round to win Pool D.
Josh Carrafiello had the top score in Group C with 36, followed by Nathan Walsh and Jason Beierling at 34 and 33. There was a small gap to the final semifinal spot where Jeff McKeen scored 29, just one point ahead of tournament-organized Clare Kuepfer. The semifinal action was tight in Group C until Beierling and Walsh scored an 8-0 victory in their partnership to solidify their spot in the finals. In the singles final Jason Beierling led 6-0, before Walsh started to put up a challenge and led most of the 4th round, but a final-shot follow-through 20 from Beierling earned a tie for 7-1, and he’d finish off the match two rounds later with a 9-3 victory.
Pool B saw the largest score disparities of the tournament, as Ray Kappes and Ray Beierling put an ocean between themselves and the competition in the round robin with 43 and 42 points. In their wake there was still two spots left in the semifinals, and Neil Cook and Carol Cook grabbed them with 29 points each just ahead of Philip Ware at 26 points. The semifinal games were rather unusual affairs of one-way traffic, ending in scores of 8-0, 8-0 and 6-2. Ray Kappes emerged with 18 points for 1st, while Neil Cook ended up just ahead of Ray Beierling by virtue 1 20 (both tied at 14 points). Through the dust of that semifinal battle was yet another close singles final, where Kappes came out on top of Cook 10-8.
In the Pool A round robin it was 2-time defending champion Andrew Hutchinson who had the top score at 36 points, followed by his NCA Players partner Connor Reinman at 35 points. Roger Vaillancourt made his 2nd-ever NCA top 4 with 33 points, and it was a decent gap to the final semifinal spot. For the second tournament in a row it was Jeremy Tracey, 27 points, who narrowly grabbed that last semifinal spot ahead of Ron Langill, 26 points.
In the first semifinal game Tracey and Reinman partnered to play Hutchinson and Vaillancourt. No player looked particularly in form, each leaving at least a couple 20 setups for the opposition and each failing to convert one themselves. After four rounds each player was tied at 4 points. The play really elevated in the second game as each player started to make shots, and notably Connor Reinman made two separate double-takeout-20s, and the board combined for 18 out of a possible 24 20s in the 3rd round alone. The second game ended 6-2 for Vaillancourt/Reinman over Hutchinson/Tracey.
That left a pairing of Hutchinson/Reinman against Tracey/Vaillancourt in the last semifinal game. A 7-1 or 8-0 win for either team would result in the final pairing advancing to the final, while scores of 5-3 or 4-4 would see Reinman and Vaillancourt play of the Owen Sound title. Hutchinson and Reinman would score big in the final game, winning 8-0 thanks to pressure applied with some early leads secured in each round.
That set the stage for a Reinman vs Hutchinson final, the first time since Reinman’s 11-5 win at the 2019 Turtle Island event, and a rematch of the 2022 NCA Players semifinal that saw Reinman’s near flawless performance be rewarded with a 9-1 win over Hutchinson.
The final match was high quality, but certainly not at the level of flawless. In early rounds Reinman held narrow leads, and Hutchinson was unable to get a successful hide or ricochet 20 to turn the tables. Reinman led 6-0, but Hutchinson got the early lead in the 4th round. However, a failed takeout left the door open and Reinman converted the subsequent open 20 and maintained the lead for 8-0. Reinman looked to clinch the victory in the 5th round, but left back-to-back hanger 20s for Hutchinson. In a fortuitous fashion though, Hutchinson missed both shots and Reinman would cap off the match with a 10-0 victory.
The victory in Owen Sound is Reinman’s 5th NCA title, and 2nd victory of the 2022-2023 Tour. He’s the first player to win multiple events in 2022-2023 which sets him up nicely to be in contention for the Tour title late in the season, although Andrew Hutchinson currently holds the top spot as the Tour shifts to Brucefield in November for the Ontario Doubles Crokinole Championship.