For the second straight year parity was the word in Montreal as Eastern Canada’s traditional powerhouses from Montreal, Toronto, Rideau Valley and Tri-City put on an unpredictable and thrilling show in one of the sport’s last great houseleague tournaments: for the first time ever, all four semifinalists represented four different cities. But there were also a few big surprises –including the emergence of a new team to watch from northern Ontario—and the variety of styles of derby played had the crowd enthralled over two days and twenty-eight games. In the end, the Vicious Dishes, a supremely talented team that had never fared well at the Beast, pulled it all together at the right time and rode a thrilling Sunday push to the Championship final, and their first Beast of the East victory.
DOUBLE ELIMINATION ROUND
Set up by a random draw, the first round is always full of surprises and this year with a stacked upper bracket, was full of exciting action early. The tournament opener saw two pre-tournament favourites square off in a sleepy bout with ToRD’s Chicks Ahoy! taking the 10-point victory over the defending champion Slaughter Daughters out of Rideau Valley. But given the disparity in experience between some of the leagues, there were also some blowouts. Only twice in the tournament’s history had teams recorded shutouts (with 20 minute preliminary round games, this is certainly doable), yet the Vicious Dishes managed to pull it off twice defeating Muddy Rivers’ Reines of Terror and Quebec’s Les Duchesses by a combined score of 271-0 (although Les Duchesses would hit the century mark as well in their historic first-ever victory over an overmatched Debutantes team from GTA, part of a record-setting seven 100-point performances in the tournament). Despite these massive victories, the Dishes remained under the radar based on a sloppy, inconsistent performance resulting in a loss to co-hosts Les Filles du Roi.
There were certainly a fair share of surprises as well, as pre-tournament favourites and last year’s finalists the Gore-Gore Rollergirls (who played very short-handed) never seemed to quite get their heads in it and were eliminated in the first round for the first time since 2008 (which was a single-elimination tournament). 2008 champs the Hamilton Harlots would get back in the win column this season, but would get dominated by the Daughters in an elimination game, and last year’s third place finishers, ToRD’s Death Track Dolls would see their tournament end early with a 59-31 loss to La Racaille. The Smoke City Betties picked up the slack for the ToRD contingent though, pulling off a demoralizing last-jam victory over the Thames Fatales to book their spot in the quarterfinal for the first time since 2009. Also short-handed, the Thames Fatales (one of eight teams playing in their fifth BOE) would never quite recover from that blow and would be overwhelmed in a surprisingly one-sided loss to an increasingly strong Babes of Thunder team from Thunder Bay (77-20), one of three teams debuting at the Beast (the others were the Reines and Durham’s Motor City Madames).
Although the Chicks handled the Babes fairly well in the first quarterfinal (an 85-22 win that was never in doubt), it certainly wasn’t easy, and the performance capped an incredible tournament by the skaters from Thunder Bay. Beyond that, the quarterfinals provided some thrilling, high-scoring bouts including a four-point victory by the Daughters over a resurgent FDR who, paced by the amazing return of Beater Pan Tease after a two-year absence, saw a fierce late-game comeback fall just short (71-67). The Smoke City Betties competed well with, but could never quite solve La Racaille (78-59), and in the most thrilling (and controversial) game of the round, Les Contrabanditas fell to the Vicious Dishes. It was the second-straight year that the Ditas, Montreal’s big hope for the past two years, fell in the quarterfinals in somewhat of an upset. Although there was controversy at the end, the Ditas didn’t bring their A-game and early on it actually looked as if the Dishes would run away with it. A late-game push proved to be too little too late as the Dishes held on 64-54.
For the first time in the tournament’s history four different cities were represented in the semifinals. In the first, highly anticipated semifinal (a match up most had seen coming prior to the tournament), the Chicks Ahoy! became unraveled in an uncharacteristically undisciplined game against the Slaughter Daughters that saw them spend almost the entire game shorthanded (including a near eight-minute run when they were down 4-2 in the pack). Against a team as experienced and focused as the Daughters, it was virtually impossible for the Chicks to stay in it, and the Daughters guaranteed themselves a chance to defend their titles with the 65-31 victory.
In the second semifinal, the host city’s last hope, La Racaille, seemed to run out of steam against a team that was just beginning to pick it up. Using smart, punishing pack work (beautiful bridging to the front and back), the Dishes ground down the very talented La Racaille, but never ran away with it, securing the team’s first visit to the championship final with the 67-48 win.
For the second time in the tournament, the Chicks Ahoy! and La Racaille met, and although this Montreal team looks as if it has come a long way in the past year (and sports an exciting lineup including homegrown talent Mel E. Juana, Nameless Whorror and Sparkle ‘N Maim and impressive transfers Surgical Strike, Slavic Slayer and Pelvis Stojko), they were outmatched again by a composed Chicks team led by Tara Part and Nasher the Smasher (dominant in the pack), and a strong jammer rotation of Candy Crossbones, Dyna Hurtcha and Bala Reina. Although unhappy with not advancing to the final, the Chicks picked up their first Beast trophy ever in the 87-48 victory.
More evidence of the parity amongst the elite leagues in Eastern Canada, the Vicious Dishes vs. Slaughter Daughters final marked the first time in the tournament that both finalists had lost a game on route to the championship. Despite losses to key skaters, the Daughters have managed to fill gaps with excellent pickups in Eh Nihilator (a Gainesville transfer) L.A. Clip-her and Amanda Pummeler, and seemed poised to defend against a Dishes team that had taken many by surprise. Skating without the injured Cleothrashya and key jammer Motorhead Molly (replaced by leaguemates Leigh-zzie Borden and Freudian Whip respectively), the Dishes grasped control of the final early and never relented. With a core of Thunder skaters creating solid packs (sin-e-star, Bareleigh Legal, Anita Martini, Sofanda Beatin, Stacie Jones and Suzy Slam) and solid jamming from Lippy Wrongstockings and the converted pivot Jill Standing, the Dishes got better as the tournament progressed and seemed the fresher and more focused of the two teams in the final. Despite the usual excellent work by the likes of Semi-Precious Margaret Choke, Scotch Minx and Sister Disaster (who joined Bareleigh Legal in fouling out of the game) the phenomenal jamming of Soul Rekker (that included one of the best apex jumps many had ever seen), the Daughters could never completely control the Dishes’ packs as they had others throughout the tournament, and despite the rain of boos that cascaded down upon the perhaps unfairly unpopular Dishes, they were clearly the top team by the end of it and became the first team to score over a hundred points in the final (and the first to hit the mark three times in single a tournament), winning 118-63 and claiming the team’s first ever Beast of the East championship.
MVP: Semi Precious (Slaughter Daughters)
The strength of the team-play of the champion Dishes made it hard to single-out any one player (which probably says a lot about why they won the tournament), so for the second year in a row, the Rideau Valley blocker takes the prize. Despite not leading her team to a championship, the Team Canada standout put together yet another incredible tournament and was the talk of the weekend among commentators, fans and players alike. Her always ferocious one-on-one abilities are now complemented by amazing pack leadership and she has become a complete player and one of this country’s elite superstars.
Breakout Player: Amanda Pummeler (Slaughter Daughters)
There were amazing breakout performances by so many skaters including Cutsie Bootsie (the Motor City Madames) whose team’s early exit didn’t allow her to face the stiff, late-round competition. Freudian Whip (Vicious Dishes) and Bala Reina (Chicks Ahoy!) both entered the tournament riding impressive 2012 performances and the hometown Apocalipstick (Les Filles du Roi) and Mel E. Juana (La Racaille) have been training with the mighty New Skids on the Block. But Rideau Valley’s Amanda Pummeler (a Fredericton transfer) takes the cake for answering a question: how do the Daughters reach the final with the absence of key jammer Ripper Apart? To win the tournament requires a deep jammer rotation and Pummeler added that with an impressive, consistent breakout performance.
Breakout Team: Babes of Thunder (Thunder Bay)
While ToRD’s Smoke City Betties certainly get some consideration for their return to form, the Babes of Thunder made this a fairly easy decision. With very little action under their belts, and a roster known by no one (with the exception of former Montreal and Rose City skater Boxcar Bethy), the Babes impressed. In their opening game against FDR, the Babes seemed to know what to do, they just couldn’t quite do it, but by the end of the first round (including consecutive must-win victories over Reins of Terror and Thames Fatales), the Babes were rolling and their quarterfinal appearance announces them as a team to watch.
* A big thanks to Canuck Derby TV and Montreal Roller Derby, but the Nerd would like to send out a special thanks to Neon Skates for their support of the Nerd’s coverage of the 2012 Beast of the East.