Recap

Team Canada Outpaces a Scrappy Team Ontario While Misfits Hold Off Bruisers

Alliston, Ontario, was the site of a fantastic night of women’s flat track roller derby where Team Canada continued to tune up as the World Cup nears, the host Misfit Militia picked up a big win, and some of Eastern Canada’s best junior skaters took to the track for an all-star exhibition scrimmage.

Members of Team Ontario and Team Canada celebrate after their game. (Photography by Joe Mac)

Members of Team Ontario and Team Canada celebrate after their game. (Photography by Joe Mac)

It’s going to be a bittersweet 2014 Blood & Thunder Roller Derby World Cup for fans of Canadian roller derby. The team looks strong in the lead up to what will be the largest global roller derby event in the history of the sport (in any of its various incarnations), and it shoulders expectations to repeat as silver medalists. Yet at the same time, it will represent the final skate for many of our nation’s early stars of the sport, some of whom were featured front and centre on Saturday night at the Alliston Memorial Arena. 2011 World Cup MVP Smack Daddy, her Montreal counterparts Georgia W. Tush and Lil’ Mama, along with Toronto’s (Dusty) Watson, all have announced their intentions to retire after the 2014 season and were key pieces on Saturday as Canada held off Team Ontario 195-99 in a thrilling game of roller derby.

Although Team Ontario regulars Watson and Dyna Hurtcha were maple-leaf clad on Saturday, it was still arguably the best Team Ontario roster we have seen take the track yet, and one that included Team Canada members Murphy, USS DentHerPrize (of the Detroit Derby Girls), and Soul Rekker. This stacked provincial roster caught Canada off guard, overwhelming the national team at the opening whistle with Tri-City’s Ova’Kill taking the first lead of the game behind the support of a terrifying Ontario power line of Murphy, Sofanda Beatin, Margaret Choke and Wylde Leigh Coyote. The opening five minutes were actually dead even with the teams trading power jams and Canada just able to slip ahead 14-10. However, over the next 10 minutes the national team woke up and went on a dominant 10-minute run, outscoring Ontario 56-6 to take a 70-16 lead midway through the opening half.

Kim Jana finds an open outside lane for Team Canada. She was part of a deep Canadian rotation. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Kim Jana finds an open outside lane for Team Canada. She was part of a deep Canadian rotation. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Ova’Kill was joined on the jam line by Rideau Valley’s Soul Rekker and Toronto’s Motorhead Molly, with Rideau’s Austintatious getting in on the action as well. They faced off against a fearsome Team Canada rotation of Mel-e-Juana (Montreal), Kim Janna (Terminal City—she looked impressive coming back from a serious leg break), Watson (Toronto), and Calgary’s 2014 breakout star Kris Myass, who was virtually unstoppable in carving up the track for Team Canada and seems to be the anchor of the offense as we lead up to the World Cup.

After the flurry by Canada midway through the half, Ontario tightened things up once again. There were some incredible stand-outs in the Ontario pack led by Murphy (who formed great packs with RVRG teammates Bottema and Margaret Choke and Tri-City’s Wylde Leigh Coyote), but also featuring strong performances from across the board, including Sofanda Beatin, hometown skater Renny Rumble, and pivot Sister Disaster.

Stats were tight in the first half with the teams virtually even in leads and power jams (although Canada was much more successful in this regard and also more proficient on the power kill), and the final fifteen minutes of the half were a virtual stalemate with Canada barely outscoring Ontario 31-30 over that span to hold a 111-46 lead at half.

Canada pivot Demanda Lashing tries to open a lane between Murphy and USS DentHerPrize. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Canada pivot Demanda Lashing tries to open a lane between Murphy and USS DentHerPrize. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Following the World Cup rules that allow for substitutions from beyond the fourteen on the bench, Team Canada sat veterans Smack Daddy, Tush and Watson for the second half to bring in luludemon and the dynamic triple threat Dyna Hurtcha, who tore up the track at every role in the second half. While former Team Canada stars like Mackenzie, Jess Paternostro and Lil’ Mama remain key pieces, it feels as if there is a passing of the torch going on with Team Canada right now, and the new generation of skaters are stepping up to lead the way. Montreal’s Demanda Lashing and Hughes (Surgical Strike) along with Windy City’s KonichiWow, Terminal City’s Karlene Harvey (Buffy Sainte Fury), and Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha were the dominant forces in this game and helped to maintain Canada’s lead, 145-61, at the midway point of the second.

Canada had a far greater lead jammer percentage in the second half (about 80% to 20% after being close to even in the first) allowing them to hold back an inspired Team Ontario and record the 195-99 win.

Nerd Glasses

This was the third meeting between the Bruisers and the Misfit Militia in the last three years; they'd split the first two games. (Photo by Joe Mac)

This was the third meeting between the Bruisers and the Misfit Militia in the last three years; they’d split the first two games. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The opening game of the double header featured the hometown Misfit Militia squaring off against their Toronto rivals, the Bay Street Bruisers (ToRD’s B-Travel Team). This was a rubber match of sorts as the teams split two decisions over two years leading up to this meeting. Things started tight with both teams trading early power jams and the Militia pulling ahead 10-9; the Bruisers would roar right back to take an 18-14 lead before the Militia stole the lead back 27-18, all before the 10-minute mark of the first period.

The turning point of the first half occurred near the 20-minute mark when Misfit Militia locked down the defense and jammer Smoka Cola managed four natural grand slams in a 23-point jam that gave the Militia the biggest lead of the game, 59-28, which they would maintain at half, leading 93-40 at that point (Smoka Cola had a remarkable 62 points at the break, while the Bruisers scoring was evenly spread out over its four jammers).

The home team went on an 18-6 run to start the second before the Bruisers began a sustained pushback, but the Toronto team was never quite able to overcome the gap. Remarkably, lead jammer status was nearly even throughout (with the Militia holding only a slight 20-19 advantage) as were power jams, but the stunning defense and stifling penalty kill of the Misfit Militia stole the show and kept the Bruisers at bay. In the end, Smoka Cola recorded a game high 87 points while Bellefast (skating for Toronto in her hometown) led the way for the visitors with 44 points (Sleeper Hold, who had a rough first half, bounced back big time in the second and ended up with 28 points). Although the Bruisers, who finish the season 7-5, slightly improved upon last year’s 90-point loss, with the 174-104 win, the Misfit Militia (7-1) proved once again that they are one of the (if not the) nation’s top non-WFTDA affiliated leagues.

Nerd Glasses

Despite rumblings to the contrary on social media and in roller derby forums, the sport of roller derby has never ever been as healthy as it is today (not even close): more people are playing it in more countries than ever, and more people are watching it and exposed to it than ever before. I was never more aware of this than on Saturday while sitting at an old-school wooden-bleacher iceless hockey arena in a rural Ontario town that itself has two distinct roller derby leagues, where our national team was facing off against one of its provincial counterparts, all under the awe-filled gaze of a group of junior-aged players who were in town to try out for their own national team.

Just fourteen years ago—less than two decades!!—not only would no one have believed this possible, no one would have even thought to consider it.

Next stop on the road may be Nashville for the WFTDA Championship, but just over the horizon, Dallas looms.

*** Check out layer9.ca for trackside video coverage, and local viewers check local listings for Rogers TV rebroadcasts of the game.

Steady Dolls Hold off Relentless Gores to Retain ToRD Title

The Dolls defended the Boot in a tight, scrappy bout against the Gores, while the Betties closed out a challenging season with a big win over the Renegade Derby Dames’ Striking Vikings.

The Dolls joined the Gores (2009-10) and the Chicks (2011-2012) as back-to-back ToRD champs. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls joined the Gores (2009-10) and the Chicks (2011-2012) as back-to-back ToRD champs. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

There was an old-school vibe at the Bunker on Saturday night: a lively crowd, active mascots, and rising beeramids lined the track, while tutus and face-paint made their way back onto it, but the game itself was new-school flat track roller derby at its frenetic best. It was one of those fine balances unique to the sport; a dichotomy that only roller derby at its best is able to pull off. Fueled by this richness of narrative, the dueling opponents  rose up to meet expectations and delivered. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, it was the Death Track Dolls who survived the duel, able to hold off the three-time champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls 184-139 to take home their second straight Toronto Roller Derby championship.

The defending champion Dolls came in focused and unified. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The defending champion Dolls came in focused and unified. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Coming off of a record-setting season capped by a record-setting Battle for the Boot mauling against the Betties in 2013, the defending-champion Dolls, rebuilt and not as fine-tuned or weapon-stacked as they were last year, relied on a different sort of chemistry to make it work in 2014. It was a challenge that could have understandably felled a lot of teams, but the combination of trust and positivity that fueled the 2014 Dolls was evident from the opening whistle of the 2014 Battle for the Boot.

Not to discredit the Gores, who themselves were dealing with a largely rebuilt roster and had to find a way to fuse multiple-generations of skaters into a cohesive unit. They succeeded, and rebounded in 2014 from their worst season ever in 2013 to return to their seventh championship game and, of course, in April became the first team from Toronto to win Montreal’s Beast of the East. And despite a near 100-point loss to them earlier this season, in this game they gave the Dolls all that they could handle.

Dolls' jammer Bellefast and Gores' Lexi Con were both excellent for their teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Dolls’ jammer Bellefast and Gores’ Lexi Con were both excellent for their teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The league’s leading scorer Bellefast got things started on the jam line for the Dolls, and it was clockwork for the defending champs as they lept out to a quick 4-0 lead. But the Gores roared back showing some offensive savvy in ringing off five straight lead jammer statuses (and seven of the first ten), but could manage only 9 points on the run to hold a slim 9-4 lead, a testament to the Dolls’ stifling defense and quick offense-defense transitions to free jammers and make sure any damage was limited. Early on the Gores were able to contain Dolls’ first-year jammers Devochka and Sleeper Hold, but had virtually no answer for veteran Bellefast.

Belle managed the third highest regular season lead percentage in ToRD history this year (77%) and kept the Dolls in the championship game early on as they got their offensive blocking going. She scored the first 25 points for the Dolls and had 67 at half on a 78% lead percentage in a dominating performance¹. While Devochka eventually managed to start putting up points midway through the first, it would take Sleeper seven jams to pick up lead and get on the board. Once the pack settled in though, all three jammers eventually got going (for example, Sleeper put up 16 points in the second half on 60% lead percentage, while Devo would finish the game with 49 points on 53%).

Gores' Chronic and Kandy Barr hold back Dolls' jammer Devochka. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

Gores’ Chronic and Kandy Barr hold back Dolls’ jammer Devochka. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

The game was incredibly tight early on, with the Dolls slipping ahead 33-25 at the midway point in the first period, and the game’s true highlight was the duel going on the pack. Skater for skater, the Gores arguably had the deeper pack, led by veterans Santa Muerte, Chronic, Gamma Rei, Emma Dilemma and the retiring league founder Kandy Barr, and the Gores did win many one-on-one battles, but as the game went on the Dolls’ walls tightened and what the team lacked in individual brilliance, they made up for in collective unity.

Mirroring the Gores’ opening run, the Dolls steered the game into half picking up eight of the final ten lead jammers and building the game’s largest lead—30 points—up 95-65 at the break.

It wasn’t that the Gores’ jammers weren’t having strong games: they were; it was just that they so rarely had an opportunity to make a pass without a Dolls jammer hot on their tails. Both Lexi Con and Lumberjack Flash finished the game with impressive lead percentages, 71% and 60% respectively, and Beaver Mansbridge made the most of her leads putting up 25 points on a 38% lead percentage (Taranosaurus Rex would have a similar high points-per-lead ratio, managing 18 points on only a 20%).

Dawson and Wheatabitch wrap up Gores' jammer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

Dolls’ blockers Dawson and Wheatabitch wrap up Gores’ jammer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

While the Dolls played with a hive-mind sensibility, they were anchored by strong performances from their key skaters and veterans. After a number of retirements and CN Power call ups last season there was a big on-track leadership void in the pack and long-time Doll Dawson stepped up in a big way this season, and was at her best in the championship game, anchoring a line alongside veteran co-captain Getcha Kicks and retiring long-time Doll Audrey Hellborn (who joined the jammer rotation late in the game and picked up, fittingly, the final lead of the half to close out the win).

Meanwhile the same sort of pressure was heaped on second-year skaters Android W.K. and Robotmy who were tasked with anchoring the other half of the pack and did well to live up to the challenge, aided in part by the presence of and ever-improving Hannibelle and another long-time Doll Slam Wow. Finally, yet another retiring league founder, Demolition Dawn, provided the foundational and emotional stability that was key to this team’s year-long success. And the Dolls needed this veteran poise in the second half as the Gores poured on wave after wave of energetic pushbacks, managing to get as close as 19 points after a 20-point Lexi Con jammed power jam midway through the half (Lexi managed to pick up lead on her first six jams of the second half in a fantastic, clutch performance).

A veteran Gores line of Emma Dilemma, Kandy Barr, Chronic and Santa Muerte talk with their bench during a time out. (photo by Greg Russell)

A veteran Gores line of Emma Dilemma, Kandy Barr, Chronic and Santa Muerte talk with their bench during a time out. (photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores too have a solid young core to build around. Full Deck is emerging as a strong pivot and potential triple-threat, while both Moose Knuckles and Viktory Lapp saved their best for the when it mattered most this season, showing that they can be called upon in big-game situations. There is a ton of depth on the Gores roster as well, from veterans Miss Kitty La Peur and Purple Pain to newcomers like Machu Beatchu and Guardian Paingel (who were both absent with injury).

Prior to the game, sixteen retiring skaters were singled out for their contributions to the league. It was a humbling list including many first-generation ToRD skaters including Betty Bomber, Candy Crossbones, Demolition Dawn, Dusty, Dyna Hurtcha, Hoff, Kandy Barr, and Rebel Rock-It. It leaves a gaping absence in the centre of the organization, but it is one that the league has the infrastructure to fill. As a whole, the league should take notice of the Dolls model of smart drafting: This year’s pick ups in Stringer Belle, Wheatabitch and Free Range Clam were model skaters for the Dolls, making up for any lack of experience by buying into the team model and playing within the established system.

They were integral pieces in the Dolls’ complete-game performance in the final, and the team went toe-to-toe with their opponents during the Gores’ final desperate push where they had the offense going but couldn’t fully shut down the Dolls in a 25-11 run over the final four jams. The Dolls remained focused and held on for the 45-point victory.

Despite the retirements and the feeling of finality to this championship game, ToRD as a whole has a chance to do the same sort of on-the-fly rebuild that the Dolls did, only on a larger scale. With a deep house league entry draft loaded with both homegrown and transfer talent coming up, and an internal development system strongly in place in place from fresh meat all the way up to CN Power, this entertaining and successful eighth championship game should be looked at as much as an augur of a successful future as it was a celebration of a strong history.

"The Boot" Photo by Neil Gunner (neilgunner.com)

The Betties led 135-55 at half in their win over the Striking Vikings. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Betties led 135-55 at half in their win over the Striking Vikings. (Photo by Greg Russell)

***In the opener, the Smoke City Betties picked up a much-needed win over the Renegade Derby Dames’ travel team, the Striking Vikings, 237-167. After climbing all the way to the 2013 Battle for the Boot, the Betties stumbled this season, finishing last in ToRD and missing the playoffs. They played, arguably, their most complete game on the season on Saturday and beat a tough opponent that featured some talented skaters.

***The 2014 Battle for the Boot will be rebroadcast intermittently on Rogers TV beginning next Saturday. Check listings for air times and dates. Visit layer9.ca for track side video coverage.

¹These stats are all unofficial and will be updated for accuracy if necessary.

Gores to Battle for the Boot After Semi-Final Win

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls held off Chicks Ahoy! in a highly competitive semi-final showdown, while the D-VAS impressed against South Simcoe in their final performance before the 2015 entry draft.

This was the sixth playoff meeting between the Chicks and the Gores, but the first time they have faced off in the semi-final instead of the final. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

This was the sixth playoff meeting between the Chicks and the Gores, but the first time they have faced off in the semi-final instead of the final. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The “Dynasty” has completed one more step on its quest to return to the top. After reaching 6 consecutive ToRD championships from 2007-2012, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls were stunned in last year’s semi-finals by the Smoke City Betties leaving them and their co-perennial power house leaguemates Chicks Ahoy! out of the championship game for the first time ever. It would be a league turn around that would not last long, as both are clearly back in the mix. The Gores booked their ticket to the Battle for the Boot with a tight, entertaining 152-97 victory over the Chicks on Saturday at the Bunker.

There was an old-school feel to the game brought on not only by the two teams’ long history together, but also by the fast-paced, grinding style of play they brought to the track. The Gores got off to a light advantage from the start, but were unable to pull away in the early going, never leading by more than 20-30 points. They were getting a strong game from their core of reliable veterans led by Santa Muerta, Chronic, and Kandy Barr, who were incredibly physical and, at least in the early going, never let the Chicks get into any sort of rhythm.

Chicks jammer Roadside BombShel made her return to the roster after a long injury lay off. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Chicks jammer Roadside BombShel made her return to the roster after a long injury layoff. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Chicks, however, looked strong as well, and seem well passed the brief drop to the bottom of the league that they endured last season. Led by their own core of blocker veterans (notably Rosemary’s Rabies, Biggley Smallz, Robber Blind and Emraged), the Chicks played a simple, old school, fast-pack defense to offset the lead-jammer advantage that the Gores had early on and it kept the score close. They played with a spark and intensity that was perhaps tied to the emotional return of jammer Roadside BombShel (who missed a season and a half recovering from injury): the scrappy jammer picked up right where she left off playing a more jukey style of game that was able to separate some of the Gore walls.

Both teams were suffering from injuries to key skaters and relied on call-ups from the D-VAS to bolster their jammer rotations; the Chicks call-up (and recent league transfer) Smoka Cola was simply extraordinary in the game, and in particular in the opening half, leading her temporary team in scoring (20 points) and the game in lead percentage (71%) through the first 30, looking incredibly comfortable on the track with exquisite footwork and powerful acceleration.

Gores jammer Lexi Con (evading a hit from Joss Wheelin) led the game in scoring with 91 points, including 59 in the opening half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Gores jammer Lexi Con (evading a hit from Joss Wheelin) led the game in scoring with 91 points, including 59 in the opening half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

2013 league leading scorer Lexi Con, saw her chances to repeat as scoring champion fade away when a late season injury kept her out of the Gores’ lineup; however, she looks none the worse for wear, and has arguably returned from injury even stronger. It was a late first half power jam skated by Lexi (and adding to her game-leading total of 91 points, of which 59 came in the first) that allowed the Gores to add a bit of a cushion at the break as the Chicks had roared back. Suddenly a 30-point deficit bad been stretched to 50, with the Gores leading 93-43 at half.

One thing that has changed about this Chicks Ahoy! team from their rough 2013 rebuild to now is their resiliency: whenever it seemed as if they were done in this game, they found that internal strength and motivation to fight back and stay in it. It was the quality that put them over the edge in a thrilling regular season win over the Betties and that was what kept them in this one when it threatened to get away from them.

The Gores picked up the second half right where they left off in the first, going on a 26-4 run to increase their lead to 119-47. The Gores’ depth shined through in the second as well as Purple Pain and Miss Kitty La Peur played some of their strongest derby of the season, with Purple locking down the front of the pack and Kitty often playing from the back.

The Gores' Chronic, Santa Muerte and Purple Pain work to contain Hyena Koffinkat. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores’ Chronic, Santa Muerte and Purple Pain work to contain Hyena Koffinkat. (Photo by Greg Russell)

But the Chicks just wouldn’t go away. Hyena Koffinkat brought her now expected intensity to the game and was a force particularly in the second half, often going toe-to-toe with (arguably) the only jammer in the league who could match her in on-track intensity: Lumberjack Flash; but after being contained for much of the first half, Hyena broke free in the second. This, coupled with a heads up half-time decision to flip the roles of R2 Smack You and Heavy Knitter (from pivot to jammer and vice versa), had the Chicks come storming back in the second, going on a 27-2 ten minute run of their own to pull back within reach, down 126-74 at the midway point of the second.

And the Chicks just kept coming, pouring it on until the end, with the Gores frantically able to hold on, getting incredibly strong jamming late from Beaver Mansbridge, who played with the star more than at any other time in her ToRD career thus far. When it was all said and done, despite getting stronger as the game went on, the Chicks simply ran out of time , and the Gores own tenaciousness allowed them to seal the deal and book their ticket back to the Battle for the Boot with the 55-point victory.

**The Gores will face off against defending champion Death Track Dolls in the 2014 ToRD Championship on October 18. Tickets are on sale now.

D-VAS 213 vs. South Simcoe 172

The least experienced members of these two teams squared off at Fresh and Furious 2014 in July with the D-VAS winning narrowly. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The least-experienced members of these two teams squared off at Fresh and Furious 2014 in July with the D-VAS winning narrowly. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

In the opening game of the double header, the D-VAS ended their 2014 on a high note with a big win against a scrappy team in the South Simcoe Rebel Rollers to improve their season record to 5-2 (not including a third place finish at this year’s Fresh and Furious tournament) and leave an excellent impression ahead of this year’s entry draft.

The teams were virtually deadlocked early on, with only D-VAS’ power jams keeping the home team ahead (including an incredible 27 point jam from top prospect Smoka Cola), up only slightly, 59-43 at the midway point, the D-VAS opened things up a bit at half, up 119-74. South Simcoe was led in the pack by captain Mis Terplow, Painkiller Jane, Luna-Zee (who eventually fouled out) and Suzy Scalp-Her, with Crash Brownie coming on strong late. South Simcoe was liberal with their jammer rotation early on, before locking in the trio of Amazon, Axe Attack and Brand Her (all of whom had successes at one point or another during the game).

Battering Ma'am, pivoting for the D-VAS, had a strong night at all three positions. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Battering Ma’am, pivoting for the D-VAS, had a strong night at all three positions. (Photo by Greg Russell)

There were three separate occasions where a South Simcoe jammer picked up multiple penalties on the same jam, and this was certainly the difference in the end as the D-VAS led the whole way during the second half , but were never able to pull away, instead holding on in the end for the 41-point win.

There were a variety of D-VAS standouts in this final game before the entry draft, with Vag Lightning standing out in the pack and Smoka Cola dominating at times with the star, while Battering Ma’am was all over the track in a strong triple-threat performance. But all season there have been a variety of players who have stepped up for the D-VAS making draft-day decisions all that much harder.

**Both games were filmed by Rogers TV. Stay tuned to local listings for re-airing dates and times.

Bruisers Hold Off Muddy River in Tight Bout at the Bunker

The Bay Street Bruisers hosted (and managed to hold off) Moncton’s Muddy River Rollers over the weekend, while the D-VAS overcame some early penalty troubles to outpace Ottawa’s Capital City.

Chronic leads the Bruisers victory lap after a hard-fought win against the Lumbersmacks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Chronic leads the Bruisers victory lap after a hard-fought win against the Lumbersmacks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Muddy River’s Lumbersmacks (5-4 on the 2014 season) rolled into Toronto this past weekend for a much-anticipated showdown against Toronto’s Bay Street Bruisers (6-3). Both teams were coming off of big wins to end mini-losing streaks: The Bruisers ended a two-game slide with a massive win over Nashville’s B-team last month (avenging a loss from earlier in the season), while Muddy River had won two in a row (by a combined score of 707 points) over east competition after an early summer three-game losing streak had dampened their momentum. Muddy River is a WFTDA apprentice league and has picked up great experience this season against other apprentice leagues (Quebec, Fog City) and WFTDA B-Teams (Montreal’s Sexpos). The showdown in the Bunker did not disappoint, with both teams showing up to play and the Bruisers holding on for a narrow 235-214 win.

With their jammer approaching, Android WK and Tushy Galore look to clear Box Blocker from the front of the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

With their jammer approaching, Android WK and Tushy Galore look to clear Box Blocker from the front of the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The opening few jams were indicative of the type of battle that would ensue: when five on five, both teams played a stifling lock-down defense that left little room for offensive maneuvering. The score was knotted 2-2 three minutes in before Bruisers veteran jammer titmouse was able to power her way past a dynamic two wall of Hail Destroyer and Knocker Walker and pick up 3 points to give the Bruisers an early lead.

Speaking of duos, the Bruisers’ Android WK and Tushy Galore were devastating together and did a nice job of counteracting some timely offense from Moncton’s ShamRock Her and drew the first power jam of the game (titmouse the jammer recipient). Toronto took advantage of this first error and extended their lead to 29-9 ten minutes into the opening half.

ShamRock Her and Hail Destroyer attempt to hold back titmouse. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

ShamRock Her and Hail Destroyer attempt to hold back titmouse. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

But Muddy River roared back almost immediately. Aided by Walker, ShamRock Her locked in some effective one-on-one work against the Bruisers’ jammer Lexi Con (who looks to be back to nearly 100% after a bad leg break early this season), allowing Moncton super-jammer Burn’N RubHer to rip up the track for 14 points to pull the Lumbersmacks back to within 6 (29-23) and force a Bruisers time out.

Along with Burn’N, Muddy River jammer Snipress also gave the Brusiers defense fits all night and with Muddy River pivot Godley leading a strong offensive push, the visitors picked up a power jam and took advantage, forcing the first lead change of the game and giving Moncton a 61-59 point lead. The teams would trade leads after that until a Sleeper Hold 12-point jam extended the home team’s margin to 85-73.

While Muddy River pushed hard late in the first, the Bruisers attempted to lock things down, getting strong play from all across the experience spectrum. Bruisers veteran (and former CN Power skater) Chronic, laying out some big hits, was devastating at times, while first-year Bruiser Lowblowpalooza rose to the occasion in the first half as well. A chaotic final jam in which both teams picked up jammer penalties almost made all of the work of the opening half for naught as things remained virtually even at the break, with the Bruisers ahead just slightly 104-102.

Bruisers jammer Sleeper Hold approaches a two wall of Billie and Knocker Walker. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Bruisers jammer Sleeper Hold approaches a two wall of Billie and Knocker Walker. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Bruisers came out flying in the second half, putting together the longest sustained stretch of control from one team in the game. Things kicked off with Bruiser jammer Bellefast taking advantage of a power start to pad the home team’s lead. Five minutes into the second Lexi Con was the recipient of another power jam and suddenly the Bruisers had built the most significant lead of the game, up 144-107, 10 minutes into the second.

Muddy River was able to briefly cut the lead back down to 20 points when Snipress took advantage of a power jam, only to herself pick up a cutting penalty on the same jam, allowing the Bruisers to pick up a quick 9 points and reestablish a 171-146 margin.

The Lumbersmacks’ third jammer Tootsie Valentino seemed to get stronger as the game wore on, gaining comfort within the tight-pack defense from Toronto and helped keep her team close, down by 25 at the midway point of the second.

Misery Mae hold up Burn'N RubHer on the inside line. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Misery Mae hold up Burn’N RubHer on the inside line. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The last half of the game was typified by one-on-one battles (typified by the agressive play of Bruisers’ Misery Mae–which eventually caused her to foul out–and the strong positional blocking of Just Jes for the hosts, and the relentless chest-to-chest blocking of Moncton’s Box Blocker for the guests) and the continuing trend of dueling defenses, so long as neither team slipped into penalty trouble (early on the Lumbersmacks had some troubles with multi-player blocks, but adjusted as the game went on). Walker and Destroyer continued their strong play late and were key in helping the Lumbersmacks narrow the lead to 209-197 with only 4 minutes to play.

Mid-season Bruisers call-up (and skating her first year in ToRD) Sleeper Hold was strong all game and picked up a vital lead against Snipress with only 3 minutes to go to pad the home team’s lead 218-201 and force a time out call from the visitors. Bellefast responded with another critical lead pick up, followed by a Burn’N RubHer vs. Sleeper Hold final jam matchup. While Burn’N would pick up lead, she’d be drawn into a track cut. A tired Sleeper was forced to pass the star to pivot Android WK, and a key hit from Tushy Galore on a returning Burn’N would prove to be the final blow as the Bruisers held on for the thrilling, hard fought 21-point victory.

Muddy River went on to continue their Ontario road trip with a 311-86 loss against Alliston’s Misfit Militia on Sunday, who also happens to be the Bruisers next opponent (on October 25th in Aliston as part of a double header also featuring Team Canada and Team Ontario). While the skaters from Moncton continue to impress, their weakness at this point seems simply to be depth. If they can continue to grow as a league (and carry on picking up these vital matchups against top tier teams), they will remain a team to watch.

Dollinquents (Capital City) 97 vs. D-VAS 210

Battering Ma'am comes face to face with Traffic Kisser. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Battering Ma’am comes face to face with Traffic Kisser. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The night kicked off with a 2014 Fresh and the Furious semi-final rematch between Capital City and ToRD’s D-VAS (won by Capital City, though both rosters were significantly different). Inspired by revenge, the D-VAS burst out after the opening whistle, with all four jammers in their rotation (Wheels of Misfortune, Battering Ma’am, Murdercat!, and Vag Lightning) picking up lead status and spotting the team a 29-0 lead early.

The D-VAS mostly dominated during five-on-five situations, but ran into considerable penalty trouble in the first half, spotting Capital City a power jam whenever it seemed as if the home team were about to pull away. This kept things close, with the D-VAS leading 93-45 at half.

Capital City was lead by a core of strong players who were capable (and successful) at playing multiple positions on the track. RebelLion was dominant at times, particularly in the pack in the opening half, while Traffic Kisser took over in the second. Both were viable double threats throughout the game. Ruby Wreckage was also key with the star for the visitors, jamming nearly every second jam at the start of the game before getting some relief later.

D-VAS' Kimikaze leads the defense. (Photo by Joe Mac)

D-VAS’ Kimikaze leads the defense. (Photo by Joe Mac)

In the second half, the D-VAS cleaned up their act and kept the jammer penalties to a minimum, allowing them to pull away. Captain April Cruel was once again strong for the hosts (and took over some jamming in the second too as Vag Lightning and Wheels of Misfortune shifted into some more pack work). Slamureye was a strong pivot all night for Toronto, while Juggernaut J was her usual steady self and Kimikaze continues to emerge as a prospect worth watching.

Outscoring the opposition 117-52 in the second gave the ToRD future stars some padding and they skated away with a 113-point win.

The D-VAS have one more game to impress before the 2015 ToRD house league entry draft, and you can see them at home, facing off against South Simcoe on September 27th (to kick off the ToRD semifinal showdown between Chicks Ahoy! and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls).

Rideau Valley Makes WFTDA History at Thrilling D2 Tournament in Kitchener-Waterloo

The Vixens defeat Berlin in an all-international final to become the first non-US-based team to win a WFTDA playoff tournament.

Canada's Rideau Valley Vixens are the first non-US team to win a WFTDA playoff tournament. (Photo from Vixen's Facebook page)

Canada’s Rideau Valley Vixens are the first non-US team to win a WFTDA playoff tournament. (Photo from Vixens’ Facebook page)

Since the team made its debut on a snowy February 27th, 2010, at the ToRD Hangar in Toronto, the Rideau Valley Vixens have been one of this country’s most enigmatic teams. Consistently fielding some of Canada’s finest skaters (including two members of Team Canada and a big chunk of Ontario’s provincial team), the team has not always lived up to the sometimes-lofty expectations thrust upon it. Until, that is, this past weekend, where they far surpassed those expectations, outlasting Berlin’s Bear City in an absolutely thrilling championship game to become the first team outside of the United States to win a WFTDA playoff tournament, earning them a spot in the Division 2 championship game in Nashville in November where they will square off against mighty Detroit.

Graduating to full WFTDA membership in June 2012, the Rideau Valley Vixens struggled to find consistency early in their WFTDA careers, hovering around the high D2 rankings and never quite able to string together more than three wins in a row, all the while capable of pulling off shocking victories (such as a 2013 victory over Toronto’s CN Power) as often as they were able to slump to disappointing losses.

After narrowly missing out of the D2 playoffs in 2013, things did finally begin to change for the better for the team this season. Kicking off 2014 on a six-game winning streak (that included an impressive non-sanctioned win over Misfit Militia), the team found itself surging up the WFTDA rankings, finally slipping comfortably into a playoff spot in May, as the sole Canadian team in the D2 playoffs (four others qualified for D1).

The Kitchener-Waterloo D2 tournament actually contained a series of historic moments: the first tournament hosted outside of the US (and Tri-City Roller Derby knocked it out of the park—universally praised for the organization); the first to feature a team from continental Europe (Bear City’s Berlin Bombshells); the first to feature nation’s capitals square off (it happened twice, first when Berlin knocked out DC in the quarterfinals); and, eventually, the first to feature a fully international final.

Gold Coast (and Team USA) skater Baller Shot Caller led her team all the way to the 3rd place game where they fell to a scrappy Killamazoo led by Javelin (33) and Neva Soba. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Gold Coast (and Team USA) skater Baller Shot Caller (jamming) led her team all the way to the 3rd place game where they fell to a scrappy Killamazoo led by Javelin (#33 left) and Neva Soba. (Photo by Joe Mac)

While the big-picture view of this tournament will focus on the history, at track level, the quality of the play stole the show; parity was the dominant story of the tournament, and it made for some phenomenal games. Of the 17 games, 9 finished with a differential of less than 20 points, and the event was bookended by the tightest results, with the opening and closing games of the tournament being settled by 3 points. Only one game—Rideau Valley’s 239-130 win over Boulder Country—featured a point differential of more than 100. Overall, the average point differential was 41.4. This, along with the first D2 Duluth’s 73 point average differential, provides the best indicator that the WFTDA’s new playoff system is producing the desired results

While this was the dominant tale, A sub narrative may have been the story of the upsets. The top two seeds (DC and Queen City) ended up playing for 5th, and while two of the top four finishers were expected (3rd seed Vixens and 4th seed Killamazoo finishing 1st and 3rd respectively), the other spots were filled by the 9th seed (Berlin) and the 7th seed (Gold Coast), both of whom had to endure (and survive) the Friday morning play-in games. Nonetheless, it was clear that despite the necessity for some slight internal adjustments, these 10 teams deserved to be here.

The final was an extraordinary display of what modern women’s flat track roller derby has to offer: furious play, as slow and gritty as it was fast and loose (the slower play an advantage to Rideau Valley), phenomenal clutch performances, and two teams that left it all on the track.

The Vixens led over the opening 5 jams before a 9-0 Bear City jam gave Berlin the lead 30-22. They would hold the lead until the 43rd jam of the game and would trade back one more time before Rideau would retake the lead two jams later and hold on until the end, holding off a 20-18 Berlin run in a frantic final jam that went the full 2 minutes. When the final whistle blew, the Vixens had managed a 243-240 victory.

Two critical moments defined the second half. The first consisted of both teams trading errors: A rare moment of confusion late in the second half (jam 42 of 47) on the Rideau Valley bench saw the Vixens not field a jammer. It looked to be the defining moment of the tournament, until, that is, the Berlin jammer (Master Blaster) attempted a risky apex jump that landed her in the penalty box, thus ending the jam. Critical errors traded so cancelling each other out.

Berlin's Master Blaster was simply phenomenal, leading the tournament in scoring and track time for a jammer. She was the worthy winner of the MVP award. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Berlin’s Master Blaster was simply phenomenal, leading the tournament in scoring and track time for a jammer. She was the worthy winner of the MVP award. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The second key moment came in the final jam. With the Vixens up by 5, they needed only to keep pace with Berlin. A key knock-out/drag back by Jane Rudolph on lead jammer Master Blaster late put the jammer a half lap back of her counterpart Soul Rekker, the Vixens’ jammer; this proved critical when Rekker picked up a last-second penalty and Master Blaster was just too far behind to catch up and score a full pass.

The play was indicative of the kind of performances that Rideau Valley got on the weekend from their core vets. In the final, with key blockers Hannah Murphy and Margaret Choke having fouled out by the midway point of the second (they’d been leading their team in track time to that point), it was incumbent upon others to step up, and step up they did. Rudolph was extraordinary in the championship game, and given the stage, veteran blocker Sister Disaster played the game of her career, key in moments of jammer relief (including two key star passes) and overcoming any physical disadvantage with heart and pure determination (she would lead the tournament in blocker plus/minus). Brennan was another critical force and first-year transfer BlackeyE has blossomed in Rideau Valley (her third league).

Berlin, playing short all weekend, used their blockers on a much more even rotation, with the extraordinarily feisty Catherine Beat-Her Bonez leading the way, but Bee Fattal (who lead her team with a blocker +122), Paulina Pocket, Emmazon and Heavy Rotation were all key.

But if you want to look at the key difference between the two finalists, it comes down to the jammer rotation. The Vixens dominated Berlin’s Donner Doro and Kozmic Bruise, limiting them to 34 and 36 points and 18% and 20% lead percentages respectively; however, eventual tournament MVP Master Blaster was another story entirely, and as she did all weekend, played over half of her team’s jams with the star (including 5 of the last 6 jams). She finished with 164 of her team’s points in the game and held a remarkable 72% lead percentage.

The Vixens had a slightly more balanced approach. Two first-year jammers (at the WFTDA level) Austin Tatious and Shania Pain (a transfer from the Yukon) played well above their experience level. Austin finished the game with 39 points and a 64% lead percentage, while Shania finished with 77 and 44% (and ended the tournament as the 5th leading scorer). But the story of the game (and the weekend) was the play of veteran Soul Rekker; in the final, she finished with 127 points and a 50% lead percentage and was critical in the last jam, going lap for lap with Master Blaster. Furthermore, she led the tournament in lead percentage (66%) and points per jam (6.5) among jammers with at least 30 jams.

Overall, both D2 tournaments have set a standard for the upcoming D1 teams to compete against. This tournament was run phenomenally in a beautiful venue with decent crowds that filled out nicely for the key Saturday night/Sunday evening games: the emotion in the building during the final was unbelievable. If these past two weekends are any indicator of what is to come in the 2014 WFTDA Division 1 playoffs, we should all expect nothing less than the best.

***All games were broadcast live on WFTDA.TV and will all eventually be available for free in the WFTDA.TV archives. Do yourself a favour and (re)watch them!

***Read blow-by-blow game recaps at Derby News Network and WFTDA.com.

FINAL STANDINGS

  • 1st Place – Rideau Valley Roller Girls (3 seed)
  • 2nd Place – Bear City Roller Derby (9 seed)
  • 3rd Place – Killamazoo Derby Darlins (4 seed)
  • 4th Place – Gold Coast Derby Grrls (7 seed)
  • 5th Place – Queen City Roller Girls (2 seed)
  • 6th Place – DC Rollergirls (1 seed)
  • 7th Place – Chicago Outfit Roller Derby (5 seed)
  • 8th Place – Demolition City Roller Derby (8 seed)
  • 9th Place – Boulder County Bombers (6 seed)
  • 10th Place – Grand Raggidy Roller Girls (10 seed)

Tournament Stats Leaders (minimum 30 jams unless indicated–Stats by Rinxter)

JAMMERS

SCORING* LEAD PERCENTAGE** TOTAL JAMS
Master Blaster (BCRD) 506 Soul Rekker (RVRG) 66% Master Blaster (BCRD) 90
Soul Rekker (RVRG) 345 Jessie Girl (KDD) 64% Lola Blow (CORD) 65
Lola Blow (CORD) 330 Master Blaster (BCRD) 62% Bitchin N Rollin (GCRG) 54
LiBRAWLian (QCRG) 282 LiBRAWLian (QCRG) 62% Matza Ball Breaker (CORD) 54
Shania Pain (RVRG) 235 Dubois/Doobie Trap (KDD) 62% Soul Rekker (RVRG) 53

*Gold Coast’s Bitchin N Rollin was the only other jammer to score over 200 points (225)

**Demolition City’s Stepheree finished with a 73% lead percentage over 26 jams.

BLOCKERS

TOTAL JAMS PLUS/MINUS
Bangs McCoy (DCRD) 119 Sister Disaster (RVRG) +151
Baller Shot Caller (GCRG) 109 Brennan (RVRG) +146
Heavy Rotation (BCRD) 106 Margaret Choke (RVRG) +134
Paulina Pocket (BCRD) 103 Murphy (RVRG) +123
Catherine Beat-Her Bonez (BCRD) 101 Bee Fattal /Karo’Bolage (BCRD) +122

Canadian Power Rankings: August 1, 2014

Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Pounder, Dr. Jenny Fever and Derby Nerd rank Canada’s top A-level travel teams every two months. Read the June 1st Power Rankings here.

TEAM (League) CHANGE NOTES (Rollergirl.ca /WFTDA rank)
1. New Skids on the Block (Montreal Roller Derby)

Montreal Roller Derby: New Skids on the Block

- Sometimes experience can overcome everything else. Despite finally slipping to second in both the Canadian Rankings and WFTDA (one spot behind Terminal City), the Skids keep overcoming the odds and winning when they need to. Their 199-177 victory over Terminal City at ECDX allows them to maintain their power ranking lead. However, they looked inconsistent in a blowout loss to Victorian followed by a strong showing against Windy City.  (/ 19).
2. Terminal City All Stars (Terminal City Roller Girls)Terminal City All Stars - Vancouver enters the  WFTDA playoffs as the top Canadian team by virtually every metric out there except on: wins and losses. Terminal City’s only loss in the last three months has come against the Skids, but they are most recently coming off of solid wins against Boston and Houston.  (1 / 18)
3.CN Power (Toronto Roller Derby)New CNP Logo - After an inconsistent start to the season (including a nine-game losing streak), Toronto had knocked off three wins in a row before a fairly one-sided loss to Charm City (282-146) ended the streak. They seem to be reeling as they prepare for playoffs, but last season came together when it mattered most, so don’t count them out just yet. (3 / 23)
4. Tri-City Thunder (Tri-City Roller Derby)Tri-City Thunder Logo - Since the last Power Rankings, Tri-City has knocked off three-straight wins (including a crushing 281-67 win over former D1ers Bleeding Heartland) and, of course, became the fourth Canadian team to qualify for the D1 Playoffs, thereby missing out on their own party.  (4 / 40)
5. Rideau Valley Vixens (Rideau Valley Roller Girls)

Vixens Logo

- The Vixens have only played two games since the last Power Rankings, but they were both solid wins over NEO and Green Mountain that allowed them to continue their meteoric rise up the D2 standings. They will have the pleasure of being the first Canadian team to play a playoff game on home soil, and are positioned well for a solid run through the D2 playoffs. (5 / 48)
6.Calgary All Stars (Calgary Roller Derby Association)Calgary All Stars Logo +1 (7)  The reality of the WFTDA slog has seen Calgary slip back a  bit after a ferocious start. Nonetheless, they have continued to impress against Canadian competition, winning three in a row against tough teams in the Kannibelles, The Belladonnas and Winnipeg. They’ll have a chance to live up to this ranking this weekend at the Maple Stir-Up.  (7/105)

7.Misfit Militia (Misfit Militia Roller Derby)
Misfit Militia Logo

+1 (8)  The Misfit Militia continue to baffle. With sometimes seemingly makeshift rosters, the team continues to compete at an incredibly high level. Although they’ve only played once since the last rankings, that game was a monstrous 441-97 win over Forest City. There still doesn’t seem to be much interest in making the leap to the WFTDA, so they may be hard pressed to get many games with top-level competition. (8 / -)
8. The Eh! Team (Hammer City Roller Girls)Hammer City Logo -2 (6) In 2013, Hammer City was one of the hottest teams in the WFTDA. Unfortunately, that hasn’t completely carried over to 2014. Although still favourably ranked in D2, Hammer City has lost all seven of its sanctioned bouts this year by increasingly larger margins. They will be in tough this weekend at their first ever Maple Stir Up tournament, but will have a chance to redeem themselves on their home track. (20 / 83)
9. Belladonnas (Red Deer Roller Derby Association)Belladonnas Logo Unranked The perennial Top 10ers were late to the party this season, but are back and sneak into the Top 10. Tough losses to Treasure Valley and Calgary (despite solid offensive performances) should harden them for the rest of the season. (9 / -)
10. Les Duchesses (Roller Derby Quebec)Duchesses Logo  (-) Les Duchesses were able to hold off another hot team in Muddy River in a home-and-home series that allows them to retain their spot. From the bottom up, this remains an organization on the rise and certainly one to watch as a potential new consistent Canadian powerhouse. (12 / – )

With Hammer City’s historic Maple Stir Up coming up this weekend, the Rankings Crew decided to stagger the release of this month’s Power Rankings. While there wasn’t much change, what there was, was significant. Notably, Calgary jumps two spots based on the Power Rankings Crew’s prediction of a strong showing at the tournament in Hamilton.

Speaking of Maple Stir Up, Hammer City, the hosts, tumble two spots based on increasingly inconsistent play and another long losing streak. The Belladonnas return to action and to the Top 10, knocking out the injury-riddled and roster-shuffling Sugar Skulls, who may have some rebuilding to do. Les Duchesses faced off twice against a bubble team, the Muddy River Rollers, and won both games, if not definitively, then certainly close to that. Finally, the Kootenay Kannibelles are hanging up their skates for the season, so slip from the list for now.

ON THE BUBBLE

Lumbersmacks (Muddy River Rollers)

All Stars (Winnipeg Roller Derby League)

Sugar Skulls (Pile ‘O Bones Derby Club)

The Sugar Skulls have had some roster adjustments recently, and it remains to be seen how the teams respond. Nonetheless, they have proven resilient in the past and remain on the Bubble. Both Winnipeg and Muddy River continue to impress, but each missed opportunities to climb into the Top 10 after suffering losses to ranked opponents.

TEAMS TO WATCH

Anarchy Angels (Mainland Misfits)

E-Ville Dead (E-Ville Roller Derby)

Arch Angels (St. Albert Heavenly Rollers)

Avalanche City Roller Girls (Fernie Roller Derby Society)

Not much change here, except to see the addition of Fernie’s Avalanche City, which has been a hard working team in 2014, compiling an impressive 13-4 record that includes a current six-game winning streak.

*These rankings were compiled by the Derby Nerd, Captain Lou El Bammo, Dick Pounder, and Dr. Jenny Fever.

*Read the Canadian Power Rankings preview and explanation here.

-Respectful disagreement and debate is encouraged!-

Smashers Smash Madames in Gibson’s Cup Showdown.

Atom Smashers led from start to finish to overwhelm the Motor City Madames and win a third consecutive Gibson’s Cup, continuing their reign atop Durham Region Roller Derby.

Photo by Joe Mac

Photography by Joe Mac

Derby time runs on its own strange rhythm; it’s the kind of rhythm that can let four years pass by in the blink of an eye. On Saturday night at the Ajax Community Centre, Durham Region Roller Derby hosted its fourth annual Gibson’s Cup, the yearly championship game between its two home teams, the Atom Smashers and the Motor City Madames. It’s been a big year for the two teams: some past stars developed by them have moved on to prominent roles on teams in Toronto and elsewhere, and both took part in this year’s Beast of the East (the second appearance for the Madames after playing in 2012 as well). The Smashers, in particular, turned some heads at the tournament, taking co-hosts Les Filles du Roi to the limit before dispatching their leaguemates handily in a must-win game. The one-sided win would prove an augur for things to come, as the Smashers took their third consecutive Gibson’s Cup on Saturday night with an impressive 249-103 victory.

Smashers' triple threat Betty ForgetaBOUTit gets nudged to the outside by Bad Princess and Laya Beaton.

Smashers’ triple threat Betty ForgetaBOUTit gets nudged to the outside by Bad Princess and Laya Beaton.

The Smashers set the pace early, bursting out of the gates with a 9-0 opening jam that would set the tone for the game while also signaling the kind of offensive dominance that would lead to the win. The defending champs were led, offensively, by prototypical triple threats Betty ForgetaBOUTit and PIPtonium, but with those skaters doing double duty, Scarlita would actually end up leading the way with the star, her 55 first-half points single-handedly outscoring the opposition (46). The Smashers were able to field a range of jammers that kept the Madames defense guessing, sometimes following the speedy, jukey Scarlita with the powerful 12 Gage: a contrast in styles that complements each other.

The Madames fielded a decent and varied range of jammers as well, led by the fast, agile and deceptively tough Murdercat!, the offense was anchored by captain, and long-time Madames Cutsie Bootsie (who had announced her retirement from the game in the lead up to the bout). Daisy TripHer and recent DRRDy Farmers graduate Tump Her rounded out the rotation for MCM. It took awhile for the offense to kick into gear, as the jammers found themselves constantly stifled by the true key to the Smashers’ dominance: defense. And by the end of the first half, the story seemed to be set, with the champs leading comfortably 129-46.

Retiring Madames jammer Cutsie Bootsie sneaks past emerging star Dicintagrater.

Retiring Madames jammer Cutsie Bootsie sneaks past emerging Smashers blocker Dicintagrater.

It was the pack work that truly set the teams apart. The Madames came out flying in the second half, narrowing their rotation early in the period (Murdercat! donned the star every second jam early on) as they tried to wrestle momentum away from their opponents. However, the Smashers were able to control the packs by setting up stifling defense from the back, with one line in particular—featuring a devastating duo of Psycho Magnet and Young Blood—giving the Madames fits all night. On top of that, the depth in the pack (which also featured consistent performances from the likes of Yogi Dare Ya, extermi knitter, and String Blade) added to the relentless pounding by the Smashers’ blockers, drawing a significant amount of penalties from their opponent’s jammers; their properly taking advantage of those opportunities meant that the Madames were never able to develop a sustained push in the second.

Madames' jammer Bad Princess duels with Smashers' blocker T.R.U.C.K.

Madames’ jammer Bad Princess duels with Smashers’ blocker T.R.U.C.K.

Not that there weren’t strong performances on the other side as well. Individually, skaters stood out in the losing cause for the Madames. Cop-A-Feel was her usual steady self, but pivot Pac-Ma’am stepped up in a big way in terms of leadership on the track, joining veteran Laya Beaton with the stripe, and Dr. Venkman delivered some brutal, but often timely, hits all night long. Another head-turning performance came late in the game from Bad Princess who was thrown into the jammer rotation and held her own, bringing her blocker-refined toughness to the position (one that she did sometimes play in her time with the Farmers).

But in the end, the Smashers were simply too cohesive and had too many weapons for their opponents, pulling away for the 249-103 win. It was the lowest total that the Madames had ever put up in a Gibson’s Cup, and the Smashers were only points away from the record-setting 257 points they scored in 2012.

The Gibson's Cup is named for a young fan who passed away in 2010 after an extended battle with cancer. Hearth Place was the charity partner for the event.

The Gibson’s Cup is named for a young fan who passed away in 2010 after an extended battle with cancer. Hearth Place was the charity partner for the event.

Barring too many unforeseen off-season changes, both teams actually look strong moving forward, with veteran cores providing steadiness for the development of newer skaters. The Madames, in particular, seem to be a team full of potential, with very new skaters like Tump Her and Bad Princess setting the stage for the future of the team. And the Smashers too, continue to develop strong skaters. 2014 Transfer T.R.U.C.K. is a multi-talented skater who jumped into the jammer rotation late in the game, but there is Farmers’ developed talent as well, led by Jungle Jen and Dicintagrater and featuring Minor Krisis and Natitude.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been five years since a Durham Region Roller Derby team headed down the 401 to make its competitive debut (vs. the D-VAS in the ToRD Hangar on August 21, 2010). Like the very sport itself, the league has come a long way in a short period of time.

**** Hearth Place Cancer Support Centre was the charity sponsor for the event. Please visit hearthplace.org for more information about the services offered and how to donate.

****The game was covered by Rogers TV and will begin a series of rebroadcasts on Thursday, July 31, at 8:00 PM on Rogers Durham.