Dolls win and Betties impress in their season openers

Smoke City Betties and Death Track Dolls kicked off their 2012 seasons on Saturday. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Smoke City Betties 100 vs. Death Track Dolls 115

The Betties are back.

After two years of rebuilding led to a string of punishing defeats at the hands of their ToRD leaguemates, the Smoke City Betties have returned to competitive form narrowing the gap between themselves and, at the very least, the third place Death Track Dolls. And while the Dolls were the team that took the brunt of the first wave of this new-look Betties club, they were not at all interested in lying down and allowing the skaters in blue to trod all over them; the Dolls showed their own improved level of determination as they overcame a half-time deficit to come back and snatch away the 15-point victory.

The biggest issue with the Dolls in 2011 was an unbalanced and inconsistent offense, and although they do have what looks like a future jamming star in rookie Bellefast, it seems that for the Dolls to find success in 2012, they will need to provide offense by committee and they used a deep rotation of six jammers in their season opening win, rotating primary veteran blockers like Jubilee and Panty Hoser from the pack onto the jammer line. The Betties, on the other hand, seem to have a fairly set rotation of jammers that they rolled out to much success on Saturday. Second-year skater Rug Burn took on the star for the first jam of the season and lined up against an imposing triple threat in Betty Bomber, and was joined by BruiseBerry Pie and titmouse as the primary jammers. It was a back and forth battle in the early going with neither team able to shake the other, and after 5 minutes, neither had taken control , with the Dolls holding a precarious 10-9 edge.

Scarcasm (providing a bridge for the Dolls' front wall) was one of many impressive rookies in the game. (Photo by Greg Russell)

In a game that was all about renewal and the future, it was the rookies who stood out in this one. The Dolls played three of their impressive draftees and from Bellefast’s fearless jamming to Ames to Kill’s poise in the pack to Scarcasm’s impressive track awareness (providing some nice bridging early in the half), this rookie class is living up to the hype that preceded the season. The Betties also tracked impressive rookies Renny Rumble, Laya Beaton and Slaptrick Swayze (along with sort-of-rookie Wolverina).  But in another return of sorts, injury-plagued skater titmouse, looked in mid-season form (despite being off skates for the last few months), and was a big part of the Betties early success, as they held a 20-19 lead eight jams into the first half. At this point, the Dolls began to inch ahead, riding a wave of slightly undisciplined play from the Betties and using a power jam to snatch the biggest lead of the half, 44-20. But the Betties would not yield, and once again it was titmouse who stepped up late in the half, and on a jam in which the Betties were able to recycle Demolition Dawn continuously, she picked up a string of natural grand slams that saw the Betties retake the lead, 47-44. A series of back-and-forth jams kept things close, with the Betties holding a six-point edge at the break, 58-52.

Veteran Bettie Sin D Drop-Her working with rookie Renny Rumble in the pack. (Photo by Joe Mac)

While rookies stepped up in this bout, veterans certainly left their mark on the game as well. Dolls co-captain Panty Hoser put in early notification of her interest in the triple-threat award as she looked very comfortable jamming (despite the fact that she’d never jammed in a game before). Her captain-counterpart Sinead O’Clobber also continues to emerge as an on-track leader , leading smart packs and helping to orchestrate the second half push back, aided by steady play from pack-vets Monichrome, Downright Dirty Dawson, Lucid Lou, and Slam Wow. Within four minutes of the restart the Dolls had retaken the lead, 65-61. Mia Culprit, Lady Scorcher and Sin D Drop-Her anchored the Betties defense and helped orchestrate the mid-half comeback. With 17 minutes remaining, Hoser got sent to the box, springing a Rug Burn power jam, and a solid offensive block from Scorcher helped the Betties regain the lead.

The lead changes continued through the middle of the half, with the Dolls holding a slight edge, 89-88 with ten minutes remaining. The Betties looked to mix things up by putting Wolverina on the line, but the Dolls locked in the defense at this point and held on to the momentum. With seven minutes remaining, it was a Rug Burn major cut (and subsequent power jam skated by Hoser) that finally may have turned the tides in the Dolls’ favour: solid isolation and trapping by Bomber and Jubilee assured a big pick up, and they took the biggest lead of the half, 108-92. Despite the best efforts of BruiseBerry Pie and titmouse on the line, the Betties were unable to mount a comeback, and some clutch late-game jamming from Bellefast (who may not have gotten lead in her final few jams, but always passed cleanly and forced calls) allowed the Dolls to ride out the wave at the end and hold on for the 115-100 victory.

titmouse made an impressive return from injury to anchor the Betties' offense. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Along with all of the debut skaters, Mr. Wencer on the Dolls’ bench and Raunchy Hextall on the Betties’, also made their bench managing debuts, and the benches ran smoothly all night. While both teams have to be pleased with the way things went, the league itself was victorious as well. This bout, along with a thrilling season opener between the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Chicks Ahoy!, means that after a few years of blowouts and wide gaps in talent, ToRD is nearing a level of competitive parity that has not been seen in years. With this year’s rookie class looking to be the most successful and deepest yet, and all four teams anchored by solid veteran cores, 2012 looks to be a very exciting year for roller derby fans in Toronto.

***Next up for ToRD is the third annual Quad City Chaos on the weekend of March 31st and April 1st. Stay tuned to the ToRD website for ticket availability.

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