The freshies continue to look less and less fresh every year as the Cannon Dolls and Les Bûches put on an impressive display of flat track roller derby in the championship final.
When you are at a tournament and looking for stories, many may emerge. The 2014 Fresh and the Furious tournament was no exception. At first, it seemed as if the story of the tournament was going to be the inclusion of junior-program graduates (there were four), and then it appeared as if it was going to be a story of an injury-riddled tournament (two broken legs and an asthma attack—all requiring ambulances), but then—reminiscent of the 2011 version of the tournament—one single team ended up writing its own story.
Capital City’s Cannon Dolls came into this year’s freshie showdown as a virtual unknown. This was the fourth consecutive year that Ottawa’s Capital City has sent a team to the tournament, but it was the first time that they had managed to advance beyond the double elimination round. And of course, not only did they advance, they ended up winning it all. Not since the Goldminer’s Daughters stormed the tournament in 2011, has such an underdog performed so well. And while that tournament saw the Daughters struggle early before coming on strong in the elimination rounds, the Cannon Dolls announced their presence early (they were the first team to surpass the century mark with a 118-33 victory over the Belleville Bombshells) and never really looked back on the way to a thrilling, last-jam 80-78 victory over Les Bûches in the tournament final.
One of the continuing stories over the history of this tournament, has been the increased level of play in each subsequent year. This year was no different, and indeed, may have marked yet new heights. By the end of the tournament the Dolls and Les Bûches had pulled well ahead of the competition, and each did so with vastly different styles. The Cannon Dolls played tidy, efficient flat track roller derby, simple, but smart, and subtle in its sophistication. Led by a seemingly wise-beyond-her-years pivot named Edmonton (but aided in the pack by some surprising talent as well including Apple Sass and Icetina), the Dolls’ offense was paced by three speedy jammers (Labrosse, Kaio-Kensi, and Caume-A-Kazi) who displayed excellent footwork and a natural instinct for the game (it turns out they all come to the game with considerable skating experience in either hockey or figure skating). So while the team was able to field an explosive offense, it was their defense that really defined their success. They gave up only 34 points per game (compared to Les Bûches’ 83) and finished with the top overall point differential (+268) after their 5-0 run.
Les Bûches were quite a different team. Full of offensively talented skaters (they too had a solid jammer rotation led by Le Grande Noirceur and Rapidass but completed by triple-threat Commionette), at times defense seemed an after thought. Averaging a tournament record of 121 points per game, they also gave up 75+ points in four of their five games. They had a looseness and swagger to their game that nearly backfired in the semifinal, but that they managed to reign in for the final game.
This year’s final four provided an interesting cross-section of the tournament. Two traditional powers (the defending champs Les Bûches and Toronto Roller Derby’s D-VAS) and two teams who were marking their final four debuts (the Dolls and the South Simcoe Rebel Rollers: another returning team that reached new heights this year). South Simcoe played a similar style game as the eventual winners, but didn’t quite have the depth of talent of the winners. Despite notching their fourth consecutive top-three finish, the D-VAS never seemed to find that extra gear in the tournament, and seemed to run out of steam in the semifinals where they were handily dispatched by the Cannon Dolls 119-7, easily the most lopsided result of the tournament.
There were some other strong leagues and stories in the final eight as well. For the second straight year a team from Orangeville (Fox Force Five) made the quarterfinals (they made it to the Top 4 in 2013) showing the continued strength of that team. Royal City, returned to the quarterfinals after a one-year absence, but the big surprise of the final 8 came from Northumberland’s Ganaraska Gravediggers. Facing an elimination game against the Renegade Derby Dames, a last-gasp pass gave the team the upset victory.
And this takes us back to one of the original stories of this year’s Fresh and Furious tournament: The Rise of the Juniors. They are here. And they are very, very good.
While there will come a day when we look back upon this particular tournament as a seminal moment in the welcoming of graduates from our country’s various junior programs, it is not hard to see that in a few years, this tournament will be dominated by these skaters. The Gravediggers featured a tall, strong jammer named Iggy Popper, a graduate of both Toronto Junior Roller Derby and Peterborough’s junior program. She was just one of four. The Renegade Derby Dames featured two junior graduates in Shatterproof and Lil’ Mae-Hem (who both played key roles). Finally, ToRD’s D-VAS also debuted a recent graduate, with Fight of the Conchords playing a strong game, showing a nice instinct on the track, particularly for offense.
This year’s tournament once again continued the trend of increasingly impressive performances from apparently “fresh” teams, a testament to the strength of leagues’ training programs but also the impact of having junior skaters graduate to the senior levels: they are going to bring a lot of experience with them to the senior levels of the sport, raising the bar considerably.
In the end, Les Bûches and the Cannon Dolls proved to be head and shoulders above the competition: game play and strategy, endurance and discipline—the final was played at a level that belied the “fresh” moniker of the tournament.
THE ALL-NERD TEAM
It was hard to narrow down the immense level of talent displayed by the dozens and dozens of skaters who took part in the tournament, but if I had to throw together a single line of skaters (with two jammers) this would be it:
Pivot: Edmonton (Cannon Dolls)
Blocker: Crazy Squirrel (Renegade Derby Dames)
Blocker: Block Quebecois (D-VAS)
Triple Threat: Cammionette (Les Bûches)
Jammer(s): Labrosse (Cannon Dolls), Le Grande Noirceur (Les Bûches)
***A big congratulations should also be sent out to the D-VAS’ Holly Rocket, who picked up the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Heart Award, given to a player who demonstrates heart, determination and a positive attitude over the course of the tournament.
|Double Elimination: ArenaD-VAS 67 vs. DRRDy Farmers 23
Fox Force Five 74 vs. Derby Debutantes 63
Belleville Bombshells 33 vs. Cannon Dolls 118
D-VAS 83 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 58
Fox Force Five 38 vs. Cannon Dolls 63
Debutantes 88vs. Belleville 66 (eliminated)
Our Ladies of Pain 90 vs. Debutantes 88 (elim.)
Fox Force Five 75 vs. DRRD 37 (elim.)
|Double Elimination: BubbleGanaraska Gravediggers 32 vs. South Simcoe Rebel Rollers 67
Queen’s Court 91 vs. Windsor A-Salt 62
NEOFights 105 vs. Les Bûches 150
Thickets 68 vs. Renegade Derby Dames 87
South Simcoe 72 vs. Queen’s Court 56
Ganaraska 50 vs. Windsor 49 (elim.)
Les Bûches 111 vs. Renegade 78
Thickets 117 vs. NEOFights 114 (elim.)
Queen’s Court 31 (elim.) vs. Thickets 54
Renegade 73 (elim.) vs. Ganaraska 76
D-VAS 70 vs. Ganaraska 41
South Simcoe 70 vs. Fox Force Five 51
Cannon Dolls 59 vs. Thickets 15
Les Bûches 127 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 61
D-VAS 7 vs. Cannon Dolls 119
South Simcoe 90 vs. Les Bûches 139
D-VAS 68 vs. South Simcoe 56
Les Bûches 78 vs. Cannon Dolls 80