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.