Smoke City Betties 22 vs. Chicks Ahoy! 131
There was a particular level of anticipation in the Hangar on Saturday night. There were many intriguing stories to follow, from how the new Smoke City Betties “veterans” would perform, to how the Chicks Ahoy! would be able to integrate the largest contingent of fresh meat they’d ever had. But the biggest question was how the actual bout would unfold; after last year’s 250 point blowout, how far had the Betties come? What we did learn was that despite the fact that the Betties are obviously a much better team than they were a year ago, there is still work to be done to get back to a competitive level. After faltering at the beginning of 2010, this year’s Chicks Ahoy! team has come roaring out of the gates, looking calm, organized and strategically sound on their way to an impressive season opening victory.
After gaining considerable experience in a pre-season game in Ottawa, the Chicks had no problems lining up rookie jammer Kookie Doe against the vastly improved titmouse to kick this off. The rookie didn’t look out of place at all, going 4 and done to get her team on the board early (she’d finish with a solid 27 points). Dyna Hurtcha also came to play, laying down the law with some big hits in the pack, before donning the star and picking up points for her team. If Dyna’s level of play at this early stage of the season is any indication, the triple-threat and most-feared award winner of the 2009 season is back 100%. In the recent past, the Betties would not have had a response to a jammer as physical and unintimidated as Hurtcha, but this is a Betties team that looks ready to stand up to any physical challenge. In her ToRD debut, BruiseBerry Pie delivered in a big way, showing no fear in her willingness to go toe-to-toe with the fearsome Chicks pack. And while she was sometimes scattered and erratic when wearing the pivot’s stripe, she was often dominant as a blocker and scored some impressive jammer take outs.
Other veterans stepped up for the Betties as well. Memphis Kitty (who led the Betties with 11 points) continues to be a steadying and reliable presence on the track, helping an early push back that kept the Betties in the game, often facing off against Chicks’ veteran Candy Crossbones (a duo that has been doing battle for as long as this sport has been played in this city). After a smart 2 point call by titmouse, the Betties were certainly within reach, down 20-7, and looking prepared to take the game to the Chicks.
With some sloppy, physical packs, this bout was perhaps defined by great one-on-one battles that occurred whether over the course of the bout or just within particular jams. Fifteen minutes in, at what could have been the turning point in the first half, two straight stalemates (followed by a Memphis Kitty single) left the game open for either team to take over. With Dyna Hurtcha on a run and looking to sway the momentum back in the Chicks’ favour, Betties’ co-captain Sail Her Poon stepped up to take her on. Despite bouncing off of the Chicks’ power jammer on the initial pass, Poon stayed on the case and managed a late-jam jammer take out on Hurtcha that limited the damage. But Candy Crossbones (who at this early stage in the year looks to be in as good a shape as she’s been since the Chicks’ 2008 championship season) had a fantastic bout with the star. Aided by amazing pack work from 2010 rookie stand out Marmighty, Candy was dominant on this night whether reeling in jammers and forcing calls or picking up critical points at crucial moments, the Betties didn’t have a response for the scrapper jammer. Memphis Kitty picked up a much needed grand slam on the last jam of the first half; but despite this, the continued physical dominance of Bruise, and a strong positional performance from Pretty Peeved (another skater who looks to be in top form early on this season), the Betties were still staring at a 48-15 deficit at the half.
Needing to come out strong to get back into this one, the Betties proved unable to rise to the challenge. With jammer Memphis Kitty in the box, and Dyna Hurtcha lined up for the power jam, the Betties failed to track a full set of blockers, leaving only the scrappy and effective Sail Her Poon to fend off the strong Chicks pack. In the most even of situations, the Chicks dominated the pack all night, putting up great front walls and responding well to their pivot’s direction, so it didn’t take long for Dyna Hurtcha to put up 15 points before Poon actually did her team a favour by being thrown in the box and forcing the refs to call the jam for the inability to form a pack. It was great opportunity for the Betties and Kitty made the most of it, taking lead right out of the box. She got caught up in a collision at the back of the pack on her scoring pass and was forced to call it. It would be a pivotal missed opportunity as Candy Crossbones threw down 9 points on the next jam to give the Chicks a formidable 91-16 lead.
While the Betties clearly have the raw talent to pull things together and be competitive, their success this year will depend in large part on how well they come together as a team. Along with the bench error (from a bench that seem to verge on over-emotional) there were smaller errors as well such as outscored lead jammers(though in fairness a lot of that was due to savvy jamming on the Chicks’ part, including from their confident rookie, Kookie Doe), or skaters unnecessarily being goated by out-of-play players. It was a typical early season bout, with the skaters only beginning to round into game shape, and therefore understandably mistake prone. And just as there were great individual performances, there were also great team moments as well: The recycling by the Chicks blockers and their ability to hold the front frustrated the Betties all night. And the Chicks’ rookies in the bout—Kookie Doe, Snap N Cooter, Red Light Roxy, and Balla Reina—blended in seamlessly, guided well by their veteran teammates.
The story was much the same for the duration of the second half (in which the Betties only managed 7 points). Despite some spirited play from Betties’ pivot Hot Roller and some big hits and strong defence from the Chicks’s blocker, Nasher the Smasher, long and frequent timeouts (prompting some energetic “Let’s Play Derby” chants from the fans) sapped the remaining energy from this one-sided match up and the Chicks held the course, sailing away with a 131-22 victory.
ON THE HORIZON
Despite the loss, the Betties have a lot to take away from this. Strong individual performances from the veteran core (and from their lone tracked rookie, D-VAS graduate, Misery Mae) will provide a great focus going forward. Their young core of jammers is continuing to grow, and titmouse played the biggest game of her young career, gaining valuable experience. As the year progresses the wisdom of drafting veterans BruiseBerry and Mia Culprit should become evident too, as both have a lot to offer this team. It will be interesting to see how unified this group can become before their next bout against the Death Track Dolls (April 16). Despite the changes to the lineup, the Chicks look like they are reading to pick up where they left off, and no doubt will carry a lot of confidence into their 2010 championship rematch against the Gore-Gore Rollergirls on April 9.
Check out the stats breakdown, updated standings and keep up with the 2011 JQ rating to track the league’s top jammers at the Stats Page. Keep an eye on ToRD.TV for a video recap and layer9’s bout footage.