Gores vs. Chicks in Toronto / Skids vs. The World in London.

The last time these two teams met was at the 2010 Battle for the Boot (won by the Gores, 107-31).

Gore-Gore Rollergirls (1-0) vs. Chicks Ahoy! (1-0)

Surprise, surprise.

After one round of ToRD’s 2011 regular season, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Chicks Ahoy! find themselves battling for first overall. Historically, these are the two top teams in Toronto Roller Derby and not much seems to have changed this year. Neither were particularly tested in their opening bouts of 2011, as the Chicks dominated a disorganized Smoke City Betties squad 131-22, and the Gores were in control of an overmatched Death Track Dolls for most of their 107-43 victory. And although the Gores earned a one-sided victory the last time these teams met (at the 2010  Battle for the Boot), this is a much different Chicks team. The veteran Chicks squad that qualified for their third championship match in 2010 had the feeling of a “last-chance team,” and there was a certain predictability about them. The influx of fresh faces on the roster has given this year’s team a new spark, and a renewed focus. It was a change predicted by Gores co-captain Brim Stone. “I think the Chicks will have a much stronger and more consistent season [in 2011],” she said in a preseason interview, and so far that has played out after a strong exhibition bout and the one-sided home opener. “But the Gores will still be able to take them!” Brim was quick to add.

Brim Stone has joined the Gores' jammer rotation this season. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

And until a team proves otherwise on the track, the Gores are still the team to beat in this league. The opening bout victory was their tenth straight ToRD win dating back to 2008, and they looked confident and collected in doing so. The Gores are much more experienced at integrating newcomers into the roster than the Chicks, and once again the rookies do not look out of place. Replacing Lunchbox though, has been a much bigger challenge. “She was a key personality…and always the calm voice of reason!” says Brim Stone, noting that the star jammer’s skates “were big skates to fill.” And at least in the first bout of the season that task has fallen straight to Brim’s feet; she will be important in matching up against the Chicks’ veteran jammers like co-captain Candy Crossbones. When asked how she thinks the Chicks will perform against the Gores in this bout, Candy exclaims, “Hopefully better than [the championship]!” The Chicks seemed frustrated during that last meeting and Candy admits as much. “The Gores can be frustratingly good,” she says, “I know we have the raw talent to match or beat them, but it remains to be seen whether we can challenge their awesome teamwork.”

And teamwork will undoubtedly tell the tale in this one.

Chicks' rookie, Kookie Doe was a go-to jammer in her ToRD debut agains the Betties. (photo by Sean Murphy)

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

1. Lead Percentage: Currently, the top 6 rated jammers in the league are on these two teams, and don’t expect the offensive matchups to change for this one. Both teams primarily rely on a three-jammer rotation, and each team’s rotation is anchored by two more-than-capable veterans. Current JQ rating leaders Dyna Hurtcha and Candy Crossbones lead the way for the Chicks, while the Gores respond with Bambi and Dust Bunny, who are, statistically, the two most dominant jammers in ToRD’s history. Neither team has much depth beyond their top two, but Brim Stone, who apprenticed somewhat in 2010, took on the role in the season opener, while the Chicks relied on Kookie Doe who was surprisingly effective against the Betties last month. With all four of the main jammers capable of playing solid jammer defence (Candy Crossbones seems to revel in it, while Dyna’s experience in the pack makes her a formidable physical presence), getting lead jammer status to control the outcomes will be key. While Dyna Hurtcha currently has the highest lead percentage (79%), when you look at overall team lead percentage, the two teams are virtually even at 67% (Chicks) and 65% (Gores). The key will come down to how well Kookie Doe is able to build on her impressive debut, and how well the Chicks are able to support her against a significantly stiffer challenge from the Gores. The difference maker here could be the much more experienced Brim Stone (who is still a relative rookie with the star) winning a one-on-0ne showdown with her Chicks counterpart.

Nasher the Smasher (lining up Betties' titmouse) has cleaned up her act in 2011. (photo by Sean Murphy)

2. Discipline: 29-5-7. These numbers represent the Chicks’ accumulated totals of minor penalties (29), major penalties (5), and penalty minutes served (7); significant because all three numbers are the lowest in the league. While it’s true that one clean game against the last-place team in the league doesn’t fully dispel years of major penalty woes, the Chicks’ newfound commitment to discipline should not be overlooked or underestimated. Nasher the Smasher is a prime example: In last year’s bout versus the Betties (which was even more one-sided than this year’s), Nasher still managed to pick up 13 minors, 3 majors and served 6 penalty minutes in 24 jams. This season against the Betties, Nasher stayed perfectly clean for 21 jams on her way to a league leading +57 plus/minus (she’s tied with teammate Tara Part, one ahead of Gores’ Hurlin’ Wall). Similarly, in the 2010 championship bout the Gores punished the Chicks by taking advantage of the Girls in Green’s 29 penalty minutes. On the flip side, while the Chicks are having one of the cleanest seasons in team history, the Gores find themselves uncharacteristically second in majors (8) and tied for second in minutes served (11). Staying out of the box will be key in this one.

For the most part, the Gores controlled the pack at the 2010 ToRD championships. (photo by Kevin Konnyu)

3. Pack Control: As much as the jammers are going to have a huge influence on this one, she who controls the pack controls the game. Aside from a few well-executed, Rebel Rock-It led power kills, the Gores seemed to have complete control over the pack the last time these two teams squared off, and the Chicks simply cannot let that happen again. With traditional lead-pivot Brim Stone joining the jammer rotaton, pivoting was spread out, especially with second-in-command Molly Boom suffering some penalty troubles against the Dolls.  But with a veteran stable capable of donning the stripe (Lady Gagya, Kandy Barr and Junkie Jenny) and a rookie who looks to be a pivot-in-training (Emma Dilemma), the Gores are still a pack to be reckoned with. However, with Rebel, Tara, Nasher and Mega Bouche pivoting for the Chicks, it’s not that they are lacking in experience or ability: the difference the last time these two teams met was that the Gores controlled the play—they created on the track—while the Chicks just seemed to be reacting to the Gores’ game. Whoever “creates” in this one, could come away with a victory.

The winner of this bout will move into first place in ToRD’s regular season standings, one step closer to that all important bye straight to the 2011 Battle for the Boot. The loser will be left to watch the April 16th Dolls vs. Betties bout scouting a potential semi-final opponent.

**Tickets for the April 9th bout are on sale online or at a number of downtown vendors. Doors at the Hangar open at 6:30p.m., with opening whistle set for 7:30 p.m.

ONE MORE THING

Montreal’s New Skids on the Block, Canada’s top roller derby team (and 14th ranked overall) will be heading overseas this weekend to take part in the Anarchy in the UK tournament hosted by the London Rollergirls. This is the first WFTDA sanctioned tournament to be held overseas, and also taking part will be the Charm City Roller Girls (Baltimore) and the Steel City Derby Demons (Pittsburgh). The four teams will play in a two-day round robin, facing each other once in full, WFTDA sanctioned bouts. Since all of these teams play in WFTDA’s Eastern Region, the results are significant.  Charm and Steel City come in as the top ranked teams in the tourney (3rd and 5th respectively), while Montreal sits 7th and London remains unranked due to lack of activity. But, these rankings are still based on 2010’s end-of-year stats (2011 1st quarter rankings should be out shortly), and a lot has happened already this year. A more accurate pre-tournament predictor could be DNN’s power rankings and Flat Track Stats. DNN has Charm leading the way at 9th In WFTDA (all regions), but it’s Montreal next in their ranking (14) with Steel City (18) and London (22) rounding it out. Flat Track Stats is similar, but they have Montreal and Charm in a statistical deadlock at 10th and Steel City behind in 19th. Meaning that the bout to watch this weekend could be Montreal and Charm City’s Sunday match up (11 a.m. eastern, on DNN).

**Read Lord Copper’s DNN preview here. Catch every bit of the action live on DNN.

**Good News: Because of the time difference, all of Saturday’s bouts will be over well before the Gores and Chicks take to the track at the Hangar!

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