Canada Day USA: Montreal and Toronto Upset Southern Neighbours at ECDX

With both teams displaying excellent first-year players and deep benches, Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and Toronto’s CN Power scored hard-earned victories in exciting games against Charm City (153-131) and Maine (148-120) respectively on Saturday at Philly’s East Coast Derby Extravaganza. Montreal finished the tournament 1-1 including a 197-55 loss on Friday night to the South Central powerhouse Texas Rollergirls Texacutioners, while Toronto went 2-0, coupling their victory over Maine with a 375-60 victory over Harrisburg Area Roller Derby’s Nuclear Knockouts in a chippy, penalty filled bout.

Montreal increased its record to 7-5 in WFTDA games on the season and despite the loss to Texas on Friday night may have done enough to find themselves ranked as high as 3rd or 4th for the Eastern Regionals. Veteran Montreal blocker Lil’ Mama said that they were hoping to go at least 1-1 in the tournament, and that despite their narrow victory over Texas in 2011, they were still heading into that one very open-minded and hoping for a positive learning experience but remaining optimistic as well: “We went into (last year’s) game with no expectations either and it just turned out like that (a Montreal upset), so we knew they were coming for vengeance,” she said. But despite the loss to Texas (who are ranked #1 in WFTDA’s South Central Region and 5th on DNN), the victory over Eastern rivals Charm City made this weekend a massive success.

Last year when Charm and Montreal met at Anarchy in the UK, high hopes were met with great disappointment for the Skids when Charm took advantage of a short-handed Montreal team to blow them out 207-85. Charm was on a role this season as well, having won five in a row including a narrow victory over Minnesota who had themselves scored a narrow victory over Montreal recently. Skids’ rookie jammer Apocalipstick was ecstatic after the game, admitting that they “never expected (the win), so it’s even better.”  And Montreal seems to be rounding into form at just the right time with a recent victory over Steel City meaning that they have now recorded back-to-back victories over rivals ranked above them (4th and 3rd to Montreal’s 6th), leaving only (the virtually inactive–two games against unranked European teams) London Rollergirls in the way of a Top 3 ranking for Regionals.

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s blow-by-blow recap of Toronto vs. Maine on Derby News Network. (Photo by Dave Wood for Derby News Network)

Toronto’s CN Power entered the weekend with an almost absurd amount of injuries to starting players, making an already tough matchup against Maine (higher ranked, on the cusp of a playoff spot) suddenly seem overwhelmingly daunting.

“We were obviously hoping to go 2-0, yeah,” said Toronto blocker Mega Bouche at the end of the tournament.” But expecting? Not really.” The veteran skater explained that they actually used the lowered expectations as motivation (the whole team also wrote Tara Part’s #L7 on their legs in honour of their injured pivot who’d undergone surgery the week before). Complaining about the amount of “chatter” around their injuries, Mega said that on Saturday morning the team came together and “we just said ‘nope’: we can’t do this to ourselves…we can’t let (missing players) affect how we play together on the track as a team… We knew that (we were down players), but we are a strong blocking team, so we just wanted to prove that we could do this with or without these awesome players that we were missing.” And although they took a lot of time to adjust to the roster changes (they were behind until the very last jam of the first half), they stuck together and were relentless in their pursuit of the victory, even falling behind by 30 points again in the second half until they wore down Maine enough to start forcing mistakes late.

“Everyone just played together really strongly,” CN Power rookie jammer Kookie Doe said of the Maine victory. “We just remained calm and worked at it piece by piece.” Although she travelled to Brewhaha and got some late-game action in a loss to Ohio earlier this season, this weekend marked a breakout moment for Kookie, who scored a remarkable 171 points in the blowout win on Sunday against an overmatched Harrisburg Area Roller Derby. “I was really nervous,” she admitted about the increased workload, “but we have a great team of blockers and everyone is so supportive; I rely on them.”

When asked if she’d stepped up her game, she modestly deflected.  “Maybe (I’ve stepped up)…one thing I’ve realized is I feel like I can really trust my blockers…it was beautiful. When I approach the pack, I feel like they are there telling me (where to go).” But Mega Bouche chimed in at this point, a little more blunt in her assessment of the rookie’s big weekend: “(She was) so fucking awesome today.”

Read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s blow-by-blow recap of the Charm vs. Montreal game on DNN. (Photo by Dave Wood for DNN)

Montreal is not playing with a full roster this weekend either and also gave a ton of track time to rookie skaters and new comers. Apocalipstick was one of those skaters who found herself skating every third jam against one of the top teams in the game (Charm). “It was amazing; I had no expectations because I had nothing to compare it to…it was just one jam at a time.” But she is also quick to point out those missing players (superstar jammer Iron Wench [Team Canada MVP 2011 World Cup] and triple threat Smack Daddy [Tournament MVP 2011 World Cup]), and looking forward, knows that when they return, the depth that the team has developed will serve them well. “We’re not putting any numbers on what we’re going to do at Regionals,” she said. “We just want to go out there really strong.” That being said, Lil’ Mama feels the team has done enough to garner a coveted 3rd place ranking for the playoffs: “We’re hoping (for third), that’s our goal. We’ve been playing some hard teams (in) heavy hitting games so that we could learn.”

Despite going 9-1 in WFTDA bouts this season, Toronto is a little more realistic about their chances of a playoff birth. The win over Maine at least opens up the possibility of a Top 10 position, but the WFTDA rankings have not been kind to Toronto this year and the CN Power skaters may have to shift their focus to next year’s Regionals. “Absolutely,” Mega said confidently when asked about at least advancing to next year’s playoffs, but admits that “the (100-point loss) to Ohio stung,” and probably had a big impact on their chances at making Regionals.  But the North Central’s 9-15 positions are a tight mess right now, and who knows how it will all pan out.

There was a huge Canadian cheering section on hand for every one of Montreal and Toronto’s games, in large part due to the busload of Montrealers that followed the Skids to Philly. Once known for their after-party antics more than their on-track awesomeness, the Skids may not themselves be the partiers they once were, but still wanted to make sure they represented, “Why do you think we brought 80 people?” Lil Mama points out. But in the midst of an American roller derby tradition, the loud fans spurred on both Canadian teams, symbolic of the heightened performances by both teams. “The cheering was incredible,” said Apocalipstick. “I really felt like I was being lifted by everyone while I was playing.”

CANADIAN ECDX RESULTS:

Montreal New Skids on the Block (6E) 55 vs. Texas Texacutioners (1SE) 197 (read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s DNN recap)

Montreal (6E) 153 vs. Charm City (3E) 131 (read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s DNN recap)

Toronto CN Power (15NC) 148 vs. Maine Port Authorities (11E) 120 (read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s DNN recap)

Toronto (15NC) 375 vs. Harrisburg Nuclear Knockouts (23E) 60 (read Justice Feelgood Marshall’s DNN recap)

***The interviews with the Montreal and Toronto skaters will appear in their entirety on this week’s Derby Deeds Done Dirt Cheap podcast, so tune in!

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