Gores Upset And Dolls Dominate in ToRD Quarterfinals

ToRD QFs Gunner

For the first time, ToRD was using a page playoff system. The top two regular season teams, the Chicks and Gores, played for a spot in the final. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto Roller Derby’s 10 playoff season got under way on Saturday night with a quarterfinal double header. Shifting to a page playoff system for the first time this season, each quarterfinal matchup had distinct implications for the rest of the playoffs. The Death Track Dolls (3rd in the regular season) and the Smoke City Betties (4th) were battling for their playoff lives, while the Chicks Ahoy! (1st) and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls (2nd) were playing for a shot to advance directly to Battle for the Boot 10.

Injury and illness threatened to take over the narrative in the build-up to the games, as all four teams were forced to make roster adjustments heading into the playoffs, but once the whistle blew, focus shifted directly to the task at hand.

Death Track Dolls (3rd) 229 vs. Smoke City Betties (4th) 82

Arrrguile Greg

D-VAS call ups Scrappy and Arrrguile (jamming) logged big minutes for the Betties. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The 2015 champion Betties finished last in ToRD’s regular season standings, the first defending champs to do so since Chicks Ahoy! in 2013, and coming into the playoffs, they were one battered and beaten team. With a roster decimated by injury, the Betties were forced to call up four D-VAS to complete their numbers, two of whom—Scrappy and Arrrguile—ended up playing big roles in the quarterfinal.

The Dolls faced a problem of their own: illness. Two last-minute roster swaps were announced in the lead-up to the game. However, the Dolls seemed unfazed by the changes and dominated from the opening whistle, pulling away early and never really looking back; the first half may have been the team’s best 30-minute stretch of the season.

Defensively the Dolls were nearly perfect in the opening half, continuously shutting down Betties’ jammers Genuine Risk (scoreless, 0% lead percentage), Kil’her At Large (2 points, 30%) and call-up Scrappy (3 points, 20%). Only break-out transfer star Caume-A-Kazi had any success, scoring virtually all of the Betties’ first half points (18) and gaining lead jammer three times (they only had five leads all half).

Bat Maam Neil Gunner

Dolls blocker Bat Ma’am led the way with 41 points in the opening half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Offensively the Dolls were balanced. One of the big questions coming in to the season was the offense, with virtually the whole 2015 jammer rotation gone this season. Devochka, the sole returnee, had a consistent first half, and so too did multi-talented Getcha Kicks (who returned to the rotation this year after shifting primarily to the pack). But it was the rookies who paced the offense in this one. Bat Ma’am lead the way in scoring with 41 points while breakout rookie Holly Rocket had a perfect 100% lead percentage and added 38 points in the opening half. The Dolls were in clear control at the break, leading 112-23.

The Betties got off to a much better start in the second, with Caume-A-Kazi continuing to lead the way and the pack continuing to show a strong—if not deep—core. Jammerhead Shark had a stand-out performance in the pack, with the scrappy Mia Culprit and LowBlowPalooza showing excellent instincts, quickly transitioning between offense and defense. Fight of the Conchords returned for their first game of the season and did not look out of place and the consistent play of {Red} Delicious, AnneBulance and Brickhouse Bardot shows that the team has a lot to build around moving forward.

Dolls QF Greg Russell

The Dolls, whose defense was stifling at times, advance to the semifinal on April 9. (Photo by Greg Russell)

While the Dolls defense slowed down slightly in the second (the Betties were able to triple their score), with such a substantial lead, the team could be excused for taking its foot off the gas. But it was the most balanced Dolls performance of the season with both blocking lines having excellent moments. Veteran Doll Dawson was excellent defensively and supplied timely offense (while doing an excellent job at reading when to bridge) and Will Wrecker was able to shrug off four first-half penalties to have a cleaner second, while their line was bolstered by the return of experienced blocker Stringer Belle. Dasilva had another strong game as well and the increasingly reliable Wheatabitch had a very physical game with some timely hits.

The Dolls’ dominant 147-point victory sees them advance to at least the semifinals for the fourth straight season. With the Betties’ loss, we now know that ToRD will be crowning a new champion in 2016.

Chicks Ahoy! (1st) 98 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls (2nd) 177

PSlam Neil Gunner

After a slow start to her 2016 debut, Chicks’ jammer Pink Slamminade scored 31 points, including 22 in the first half. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The second quarterfinal matchup was a fascinating game of roller derby that was far more interesting than the seemingly one-sided final score showed. With the winner advancing straight to the champs and the loser getting a second chance in the semifinal, the stakes were not as high for this one, but both teams played as if their seasons depended on the victory.

The game was actually three games built into one, each transition defined by massive shifts in momentum. Although the Chicks got out to a quick 4-0 lead after a Monster Muffin opening jam, the Gores absolutely dominated the opening ten minutes of the game. The Chicks looked rattled early, giving up four jammer penalties over that span (Pink Slamminade, in her first game of the year, picked up two in a row, with Muffin following up with two of her own). By the ten-minute mark of the first, the Gores were up 48-11— three jams later that had increased to 62-11—and the Chicks, who were forced to take an early time out, looked disorganized and distracted while the Gores looked calm and collected. All told, the Chicks would end up with fifteen penalties in the half (five to jammers) to the Gores’ remarkable four (with only one power jam surrendered).

But then the game changed.

Wack and Box Neil Gunner

Chicks’ pivot Boxcar attempts to hold back Wackedher, who scored 32 points in only five jams. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Pink Slamminade started things off; after a slow start, the first-year transfer jammer picked up 12 points just past the midway point of the half starting a run of three straight leads (part of the team going six for ten the rest of the way to the break), it was a 20-3 run that saw the Chicks get back into the game. By half time, the Chicks were within reach down 76-43, led but the resurgent P-Slam who had 22 points.

The Chicks run continued into the second half as they dominated the opening three jams, led first by rookie Banshee’s 15-pointer and then a Monster Muffin break-out 24-point jam that saw the Chicks take the lead 82-80, five minutes into the second. In that stretch of 20-minutes of play, the Chicks had outscored the Gores by a remarkable 71-18.

But then, once again, the game changed.

Beav Greg Russell

The Gores got strong performances from their core jammers, with Beaver Mansbridge leading the team (and game) in scoring with 44 points. (Photo by Greg Russell)

This time it was the Gores who were forced to call the timeout. Coming out of the short break, they immediately retook the lead, with the fifth and what would prove to be the final lead change of the game. As much as the Chicks dominated a large stretch of the middle of the game, the Gores dominated for much of the final 20 minutes, outscoring their opposition 97-16 over that time. It was a smothering stretch of play to end the game, in part led by the team’s decision to switch Knoccer Mom (who had been jamming) and Wackedher’s roles (Knoccer Mom immediately went on the blocking offensive, while Wackedher scored all 32 of her points in the final thirteen minutes of the game).

The Gores’ “big three” jammers were incredible (and incredibly consistent) in the game: Beaver Mansbridge paced the offensive with 44 points (and a 55% lead percentage) but Lexi Con (40 points, 80%) and Murder Cat! (33, 88%) were every bit as equal. In the pack, the return of Santa Muerte was a boost, but Jill ‘Em All, Stabbey Road, Viktory Lapp, and Moose Knuckles had standout performances. The Battle for the Boot appearance will mark the Gores ninth time in the championship game.

The Chicks, whose packs were led by Boxcar (in her best game in ToRD yet), Biggley Smallz and Rosemary’s Rabies, live to fight another day and will duel against the Dolls in the semifinal on April 9th.

*The game was broadcast by Rogers TV. Check listings for replay dates and times. And, of course, layer9.ca was there to capture all of the trackside action. Next weekend, it’s the 7th annual Quad City Chaos, featuring the 2016 debut of the Toronto Roller Derby All Stars.

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