There is less than two minutes on the clock. It has been a ferocious bout, featuring six lead changes in total and no single leads greater than 21 points throughout. Two teams, virtually evenly matched have performed wonderfully: smart, tenacious, powerful and fast, they have provided the crowd with everything that a roller derby fan could want. And now it is coming down to one final jam.
The home team Bay Street Bruisers have managed to carve out a slight 157-150 lead over the visitors, the Brute-Leggers from Guelph’s Royal City Roller Girls. They’ve put Wolverina on the line; she’s been a steady and agile presence all game and is actually in the midst of a great season for her home team, the Smoke City Betties as well. A ToRD veteran (who began her career in New Zealand before transferring to Toronto in 2010), this is her first season on a travel team roster. Next to her on the jam line is Annie Time, a strong physical jammer who’s been powering her way through Bruisers’ walls all night.
The whistle blows and the jammers are off. Annie Time tries to take the inside on the Bruisers, but the line of Hannibelle, SewWhat?, Lucid Lou and Honey Boom Boom works her out of bounds and in the confusion off the start, draws a cut. Wolverina bursts through to pick up lead and begins to carve up the pack on the power jam, extending the lead to 20 points, the largest for the Bruisers all game, and the home team seems to have the game in hand. But the Brute-Leggers kick into frantic mode and both teams start to accumulate penalties at an alarming rate; it works and ‘Rina is eventually drawn into a penalty as the game clock expires and with time winding down, the visitors have one last desperate chance to get back into it. Rushing out of the box, Annie Time picks up 5, and a flurry of penalty calls leaves only Lucid Lou on the track for the Bruisers. She turns to square herself to the advancing ‘Leggers’ jammer and gets plowed over, falling awkwardly. She stays down and the referees whistle the jam dead. There is 35 seconds left on the jam clock, but the game is over. An anti-climactic finish to a thrilling game.
It was an important first game of the seasons for both teams who will have very different paths this year. Royal City is the most recent Canadian league to get elevated to full WFTDA status and next month the Brute-Leggers begin their WFTDA odyssey with their first sanctioned games (against Hellions of Troy and Albany) on their way to their initial ranking, and, hopefully, a quick run up the standings into Division 2 play. And they seem to have the team to do it. An experienced bench (Professor Wrex and veteran announcer Captain Lou El Bammo) leads a solidly built roster, anchored by an excellent jammer rotation of Mangles the Clown, Stefi Spitfire and Annie Time (a revelation in this game, who just began skating in 2013), along with Tri-City transfer Praying Man Tease, who was phenomenal with both the star and the stripe in the bout, and seems to be the key to this team’s success in 2015. But they also have a smart pack, led by the intelligent offensive play of Olivia Nuke ‘Em Bomb, and the hard-hitting Built Ford Rough, but filled out by Rugburn (who has made a fantastic transition into the pack) and Tragic Pyro-ny as well.
This game proved a good start for the Brute-Leggers who managed to work out some kinks over the course of the game, and improved as time wore on. Right out of the gates, they seemed to be a step or two behind their Toronto counterparts who were also debuting a new, largely rebuilt roster of their own, that did feature some Bay Street stalwarts such as Tushy Galore and Robber Blind, but also a new generation of on-track leaders, as well as a new bench coach in former D-VAS bench boss Toque ‘n’ Ale. Lucid Lou made a successful return to ToRD on Saturday (she seemed ok after the game and was walking on her own), while Hannibelle and SewWhat? were keys in the pack and having experienced jammers Lexi Con and Monster Muffin donning the stripes is a massive advantage for the team who ran their offense through the aforementioned Wolverina, Devochka, the wily Beaver Mansbridge and co-captain Sleeper Hold, who was a clutch performer all night and finished the game with 54 points on a 75% lead percentage (Wolverina was second in scoring with 47 points, while Beaver notched a 58% lead percentage; and after a rough first half, Devochka came through after the break with 19 points in the second).
The Bruisers, playing some great lock-down defense, managed leads of 34-25 at the ten-minute mark and 39-33 at the midway point of the first half before the Brute-Leggers managed to tie it up with seven minutes to go and eventually Annie Time blew open the game with a 19-point jam to close out the first period and give the ‘Leggers the 82-61 halftime lead.
Royal City managed to hold onto the lead until the midway point of the second (up 120-118) before the teams began to trade lead off almost by the minute, setting up that thrilling final jam.
It was the third week in a row that Toronto Roller Derby has delivered, featuring games with point differentials of 5, 7, and now 15 points, fans have been treated to some fine roller derby and some thrilling games to kick off the 2015 season.
And speaking of kicking off the 2015 season, this year’s D-VAS, Toronto Roller Derby’s farm team, also took to the track for the first time in 2015 on Saturday night with the freshest roster the team has seen in years. With a limited number of transfers, this year’s team will undoubtedly suffer a lot of growing pains, but they’ve got a long way to go before next fall’s entry draft and ample time to fine-tune.
On Saturday, they began the season with a tough loss to a vastly more experienced Orangeville Roller Girls Fox Force Five team featuring members of its WFTDA-apprentice-level travel team. Anchored by a trio of veterans including blockers Francesca Fiure and Gigawatts and jammer Battering Ma’am, they had no answer for the likes of Orangeville jammers K-Smax, Pink Slamminade, Lil-Maehem and Betty Bad Touch, and were dominated in the pack by Boot E, Mercy D. Nide, Eleanor Rigamortis and Goodbye Kitty among others.
But the future looks bright for the D-VAS who got some impressive performances from Wreck’n’ RollHer and Diebrarian in the pack and Ellen Rage and Noodle Kaboodle on the jam line. Losses seem to sting less for the D-VAS whose chief goal is to learn and develop as skaters, and there was much to be learned in the 411-87 loss. They’ll get a chance to put this new-found knowledge to the test in two weeks time when they host Woodstock on the 21st.
***Next up for Toronto Roller Derby is a double header on February 21st featuring the D-VAS hosting Woodstock Roller Derby, and a ToRD house league regular season matchup featuring the first-place Gore-Gore Rollergirls (2-0) and the last place Chicks Ahoy! (0-2). Tickets are on sale now.