Atom Smashers led from start to finish to overwhelm the Motor City Madames and win a third consecutive Gibson’s Cup, continuing their reign atop Durham Region Roller Derby.
Derby time runs on its own strange rhythm; it’s the kind of rhythm that can let four years pass by in the blink of an eye. On Saturday night at the Ajax Community Centre, Durham Region Roller Derby hosted its fourth annual Gibson’s Cup, the yearly championship game between its two home teams, the Atom Smashers and the Motor City Madames. It’s been a big year for the two teams: some past stars developed by them have moved on to prominent roles on teams in Toronto and elsewhere, and both took part in this year’s Beast of the East (the second appearance for the Madames after playing in 2012 as well). The Smashers, in particular, turned some heads at the tournament, taking co-hosts Les Filles du Roi to the limit before dispatching their leaguemates handily in a must-win game. The one-sided win would prove an augur for things to come, as the Smashers took their third consecutive Gibson’s Cup on Saturday night with an impressive 249-103 victory.
The Smashers set the pace early, bursting out of the gates with a 9-0 opening jam that would set the tone for the game while also signaling the kind of offensive dominance that would lead to the win. The defending champs were led, offensively, by prototypical triple threats Betty ForgetaBOUTit and PIPtonium, but with those skaters doing double duty, Scarlita would actually end up leading the way with the star, her 55 first-half points single-handedly outscoring the opposition (46). The Smashers were able to field a range of jammers that kept the Madames defense guessing, sometimes following the speedy, jukey Scarlita with the powerful 12 Gage: a contrast in styles that complements each other.
The Madames fielded a decent and varied range of jammers as well, led by the fast, agile and deceptively tough Murdercat!, the offense was anchored by captain, and long-time Madames Cutsie Bootsie (who had announced her retirement from the game in the lead up to the bout). Daisy TripHer and recent DRRDy Farmers graduate Tump Her rounded out the rotation for MCM. It took awhile for the offense to kick into gear, as the jammers found themselves constantly stifled by the true key to the Smashers’ dominance: defense. And by the end of the first half, the story seemed to be set, with the champs leading comfortably 129-46.
It was the pack work that truly set the teams apart. The Madames came out flying in the second half, narrowing their rotation early in the period (Murdercat! donned the star every second jam early on) as they tried to wrestle momentum away from their opponents. However, the Smashers were able to control the packs by setting up stifling defense from the back, with one line in particular—featuring a devastating duo of Psycho Magnet and Young Blood—giving the Madames fits all night. On top of that, the depth in the pack (which also featured consistent performances from the likes of Yogi Dare Ya, extermi knitter, and String Blade) added to the relentless pounding by the Smashers’ blockers, drawing a significant amount of penalties from their opponent’s jammers; their properly taking advantage of those opportunities meant that the Madames were never able to develop a sustained push in the second.
Not that there weren’t strong performances on the other side as well. Individually, skaters stood out in the losing cause for the Madames. Cop-A-Feel was her usual steady self, but pivot Pac-Ma’am stepped up in a big way in terms of leadership on the track, joining veteran Laya Beaton with the stripe, and Dr. Venkman delivered some brutal, but often timely, hits all night long. Another head-turning performance came late in the game from Bad Princess who was thrown into the jammer rotation and held her own, bringing her blocker-refined toughness to the position (one that she did sometimes play in her time with the Farmers).
But in the end, the Smashers were simply too cohesive and had too many weapons for their opponents, pulling away for the 249-103 win. It was the lowest total that the Madames had ever put up in a Gibson’s Cup, and the Smashers were only points away from the record-setting 257 points they scored in 2012.
Barring too many unforeseen off-season changes, both teams actually look strong moving forward, with veteran cores providing steadiness for the development of newer skaters. The Madames, in particular, seem to be a team full of potential, with very new skaters like Tump Her and Bad Princess setting the stage for the future of the team. And the Smashers too, continue to develop strong skaters. 2014 Transfer T.R.U.C.K. is a multi-talented skater who jumped into the jammer rotation late in the game, but there is Farmers’ developed talent as well, led by Jungle Jen and Dicintagrater and featuring Minor Krisis and Natitude.
It’s hard to believe that it’s already been five years since a Durham Region Roller Derby team headed down the 401 to make its competitive debut (vs. the D-VAS in the ToRD Hangar on August 21, 2010). Like the very sport itself, the league has come a long way in a short period of time.
****The game was covered by Rogers TV and will begin a series of rebroadcasts on Thursday, July 31, at 8:00 PM on Rogers Durham.