Photo courtesy of Steve Kotvis Photography.

MINNEAPOLIS —  Feb. 4, 2017 was a sunny, slightly breezy Saturday morning at Theodore Wirth Park in Minneapolis, where 64 teams took to the pitches to battle in the seventh annual Captain Ken’s Loppet Kubb Tournament. The pitches had a groomed layer of snow that provided just enough give to catch an inkasted kubb, but was smooth enough to let batons slide with ease. The Loppet skiers zipped by as the matches got under way. This tournament is one of the decreasing few that uses round robin group play instead of the increasingly popular DMK system.

The 64 teams were broken into 16 groups of four teams each. The teams would play all of the other teams in their groups before moving into the bracket rounds. Group winners went to the championship bracket, second and third to the Lilla (little) Loppet bracket, and the remaining teams to the consolation bracket.

As the sun set and a slight breeze started to cool down the air, the competition was just starting to heat up. In the first game of the semifinals, last year’s winners, Strike Without Warning (Darren Finger, Evan Fitzgerald, Pat Rupp) were handed their first loss of the day. It had seemed they may have met their match in last year’s Lilla Loppet winner, Lumber Tumblers (Casey Anderson, Christopher Jones, Brian Winistorfer). Strike Without Warning answered with an epic game two, in which they opened by downing one kubb. Lumber Tumblers replied by taking out the field kubb and three baseline kubbs with their four batons. Strike Without Warning knew it was now or never. They proceeded to strike with an absolutely great round—taking out four field kubbs in one shot, and throwing perfectly on the remaining pieces to win the game. They would go on to take game three and head to the finals.

On the other side of the bracket, Chaska Kubb (Matthew Erdman, Phil Goetstouwers, Jason Larson, John Oman) fought a hard battle against Cold Cuts (Phil Dickinson, Emily Jipp, Luke Peikert). The first game looked like it could go either way—ping ponging back and forth for a few rounds. Chaska started to edge away and before you knew it, they took out the king for a victory. Game two was underway. With a red-hot second turn, Chaska Kubb took reduced their baseline count to one. Cold Cuts refused to roll over and answered with a matching baseline. This really was either team’s game now that eight kubbs were in play. Oman drilled a tight group that allowed the rest of the Chaska team to save batons for the baseline kubb and most importantly, the king. They were headed to the finals.

The final was set—featuring defending champion, Strike Without Warning, going up against Chaska Kubb. Both teams started off a little slow. It wasn’t until about the third or fourth round that Strike Without Warning started to find their groove. Chaska was able to keep things close, but it wasn’t long before Strikes Without Warning took game one. In game two, Chaska Kubb was putting up a valiant effort, but Strikes Without Warning was riding their momentum and couldn’t be caught. It only took two for Strike Without Warning to write history and become the first team to win back-to-back Captain Ken’s Loppet Kubb Tournament championships.