The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Smoke City Betties will meet on Saturday for the first time this season, and for the Betties, anyway, their season hangs in the balance; the Gores, on the other hand, are guaranteed a playoff spot with their 2-0 record, but a win over the last place Betties would guarantee them that all important bye directly to Battle for the Boot 5.
After struggling through a rebuild in 2010, the Betties staggered out of the gates to kick off 2011, managing only 22 points in the season opener against the Chicks Ahoy!. But defensively, they fared much better than last season. That trend continued in the loss to the Death Track Dolls as well, a considerably improved defensive effort (they gave up over 200 points in all three regular season bouts in 2010), but there were also signs that the offense was finally clicking again as they managed to put up 62 points on the backs of a strong performance from veteran Memphis Kitty (who donned the star for 48% of her team’s jams and recorded 38 points), and a breakout showing from rookie Rug Burn (13 points and a 57% lead percentage). The 62 points marked the first time since the 2009 championship bout that they’d managed to cross the 60 point threshold.
In 2011, the Gore-Gore Rollergirls have continued their mastery over ToRD and have increased their overall winning streak to eleven bouts (dating back to 2008). On top of that, the Gores are coming off of their most successful Beast of the East tournament as well, having finished second (losing in the most dramatic fashion possible) and proving that they are one of the top hometeams in Canada. What was most impressive about the tournament was how the team was capable of kicking their game into another gear when necessary.
After a disorganized bout to start the season, the Betties solidified their lineup for the game against the Dolls. Veterans Mia Culprit and Hot Roller provided the steadying presence that the Betties needed to keep their packs together. Pretty Peeved is also a more-than-capable pivot who was a stand out in the opener against the Chicks. With star pivot Brim Stone shifting to the jammer rotation, a stable of Gores has stepped up to take on the pivoting duties. Everyone from usual pivots Molly Boom and Junkie Jenny to veterans Kandy Barr, Foxy Sinatra, Lady Gagya have taken on the stripe (and Brim jumped back into the role against the Chicks as well). While this inconsistency has not affected them thus far, the stable leadership in the Betties pack could help them keep things together early on to help ride out what will inevitably be a strong start from the explosive Gores (they’ve had trouble with slow starts over the past two season, something that they seemed to compensate for at the BOE).
In the Pack
ToRD rookie BruiseBerry Pie was stripped of the stripe for the second bout of the season after pivoting for much of the first, and it worked to the Betties’ advantage. Bruise has very quickly (and definitively) established herself as a top blocker in this league and letting her loose in the pack (instead of restraining her as pivot) was very effective for the Betties against the Dolls. Pretty Peeved will also be relied upon as veteran counterbalance to the experienced Gore lineup, and rookie Misery Mae has quietly been establishing herself as a key cog in the Betties’ machine. They will face a tough challenge from a very fast and physical Gores’ pack that features devastating physical players like Hurlin Wall and Santa Muerte (who is unfortunately nursing an injury), and positional mavens like Aston Martini and Junkie Jenny. The key for the Betties will be to unnerve the Gores blockers early to keep them from establishing pace and formation dominance.
One paper, this looks like a massive mismatch. Statistically, no one can match the numbers of ToRD’s top two jammers, Bambi and Dust Bunny. At present Bambi leads the league in points (122) and points per jam (3.48) while Dust Bunny leads in +/- (+69): neither is ranked lower than third in any major statistical category. But the Gores have had trouble finding a suitable replacement for the retired Lunchbox. Brim Stone has been fantastic in her opportunities, but when push comes to shove (as it did against the Chicks and at the recent Beast of the East) her value in the pack is too great to ignore. The Betties, however, have been steadily putting together a very deep jammer rotation that could form the offensive core for the future of this team. Led by veteran Memphis Kitty (who looked reinvigorated in her bout against the Dolls), the Betties have a group of second-year jammers (titmouse, Tropic Thunder and Platinum Bomb) and a fantastic rookie (Rug Burn) that gives them surprising depth at the position and a varied arsenal to choose from based on the situation that is presented. While they may have the advantage in terms of depth, it remains to be seen if they can match up one-on-one against the Gores top two jammers; to their advantage, look for the Gores to vary their rotation as they continue to try to build their own depth.
The Gores and Betties met twice last year, the first a painful 190 point rout, but the second—a surprisingly competitive semi-final bout that saw the Betties make up almost one hundred points—offered a respectable finish to the season. Although things got off to a rough start this year, things seem to be turning around for the Betties once again, and while a victory may be too monumental an achievement to ask for, a close, competitive bout would send the Betties into the off season on a positive, confidence-building note. The Gores are simply looking to continue building on what has been yet another fantastic season for the defending champs.
And DON’T FORGET! This weekend will mark the debut of Toronto’s first Junior Roller Derby League, as TJRD Knicker Kickers host New Hampshire’s Mad Missfits. This will mark an important event in the history of roller derby in this city. Stay tuned next week for a full junior bout recap!
Doors open at 5:30 PM, with the junior bout kicking off at 6:00pm. The main event kicks off at 7:30 PM. Tickets are available online or at any number of outlets in Toronto.