Chicks Advance To Play for Boot; Bandits on to Semis

Chicks Dolls QF Neil

The Dolls finished first in the regular season, but the Chicks took the quarterfinal rematch to become the first team to qualify for the Battle for the Boot. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The 2017 Toronto Roller Derby playoffs kicked off on Saturday night at the Bunker with all four teams competing in the page playoff quarterfinals. In the 1-2 quarterfinal, the current and four-time defending champion Chicks Ahoy! advanced directly to the Battle for the Boot with a 205-128 victory over the regular season leaders Death Track Dolls, while the Smoke City Bandits eliminated the Gore-Gore Rollergirls in the other. The Bandit’s 170-116 win secured them a spot in the semifinals against the Dolls.

Gore-Gore Rollergirls (4th) 116 vs. Smoke City Bandits (3rd) 170

Coming off of their first winless season ever, the Gores were looking for revenge over the Bandits, a team that had beaten them 148-99 in February. Bolstered by the return of jammer Beaver Mansbridge (in her first action since January), she and team leading scorer Mina Von Tease got the Gores off to an explosive start, scoring 10 and 12 points respectively in an opening ten-jam run that saw the Gores jump out to a 26-14 lead ten minutes in.

Beav QF17 Neil

Beaver Mansbridge made her return to the Gores’ lineup and led the team with 38 points and a 73% lead percentage. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Bandits, however, responded, and over the next ten minutes, the teams went blow for blow. Anchored by a 9-point jam from Genuine Risk and then a 10 pointer from Brawnson, the Bandits stayed within reach, down 50-41 with five minutes to go in the half.

Driven by the return to the track of long-time veteran Mia Culprit and the ferocious jammer killing of LowBlowPalooza, the Bandits seized control of the game late in the first half. While Genuine Risk had one of her most consistent games with the star of the season (finishing with 36 points and a 45% lead percentage over eleven jams), it was a Risk star pass to pivot Jessica Rabid that proved to be a game changer. Rabid’s subsequent 15-point pick up was part of a dominant 34-3 Bandits’ run to close out the half with a 74-53 lead.

JJ LB Neil

The Bandits’ Juggernaut J and LowBlowPalooa work to contain Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Bandits have been slow starters all year, and all season they’ve saved their best derby for the second half, so with a 20-point deficit coming out of the break, the Gores were scrambling to catch up. Added to the adversity was the loss of Mina Von Tease (who led the team with 24 first-half points), leaving Beaver Mansbridge to shoulder much of the offensive load, which she did exceptionally well: 24 points and a 75% lead percentage over eight jams in the second half was enough to the keep the Gores close (within 14 with twelve minutes to go), but the Bandits sealed the win with a late 24-5 jam on another well-timed star pass (this time, Brawnson to Jammher’head Shark). The jam gave the Bandits the biggest lead either team had in the game, securing the 170-116 win and ending the Gores’ season.

Beaver Mansbridge was exceptional in her return to the track finishing with a team leading 38 points on a 73% lead percentage. Brawnson led the way for the Bandits finishing with 40 points , while titmouse had another excellent game, consistent over both periods on the way to 37 points and a team leading 62% lead percentage. Genuine Risk’s 36 points rounded out the well-balanced offence and helped to make up for the lack of offence from regular season leading scorer Killa Hurtz who was frustrated by the Gores’ pack work and ended up with only 16 points (on a 17% lead percentage)—this after Hurtz scorched the Gores for 61 points in the regular season showdown.

Chicks Ahoy! (2nd) 205 vs. Death Track Dolls (1st) 128

After a thrilling one-point showdown in the regular season, expectations were high for this quarterfinal between the league’s top two teams, and for most of the first half, the high expectations were met. The game started as a slow grind with the Chicks taking a narrow 13-0 lead five minutes in to the game. It was 16-0 before a Dolls’ steal of 1 on a 3-1 jam saw the first crack in the devastating Chicks’ defence. Finally, some excellent pack work from Kate Silver, Brickhouse Bardot and Getcha Kicks freed up some space on the track, giving the Dolls their first 4-0 jam of the game.

Sleep v Dolls

The Dolls struggled to contain Sleeper Hold, part of a deep Chicks’ jammer rotation. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Sleeper Hold, who was (relatively) kept in check during the regular season meeting between the teams, was dominant early on, powering through the Dolls defence, and a power jam helped propel the Chicks to their biggest lead of the half, 33-5 ten minutes in. With the game still so tight, an 8-0 Dolls run over two jams was enough to force the Chicks to use their first time out of the game to settle the ship.

The Dolls, however, stayed close, giving up only 4 points on a power jam midway through the half allowing them to pull within 15 (40-25) before some excellent offence from Sammy Destruction helped Monster Muffin pick up 8 points to bring the lead back to 21. An 18-4 jam from Boxcar gave the Chicks a 70-36 lead, the biggest of the game, with only seven minutes to go prompting a Dolls time out. The Dolls came out of the timeout inspired, and a 23-1 power jam skated by the league’s leading scorer Holly Rocket, brought the Dolls back within 8 points. Shut-down packwork from the trio of Joss Wheelin’, Vag Lightning and Francesca Fiure slowed down the Dolls’ momentum, leading to a final-jam-of-the-half showdown that proved to be the turning point of the game.

Holly v Dolls neil

Rosemary’s Rabies and Sherblock hold back Dolls jammer Holy Rocket. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

With the Dolls playing their best stretch of derby on the night and threatening to take the lead for the first time, Monster Muffin was gifted a power jam to close out the period. With 14 points already on the jam, Muffin was struggling to get one more pass when some hard defence from Kate Silver led to a clash of heads and a bloodied Muffin. After much discussion the hit was considered egregious and Silver was expelled from the game delivering a huge blow to the Dolls who were already making line adjustments to compensate for missing skaters.

The Chicks took an 89-63 lead into the second half and came out to start the second inspired. With the Dolls scrambling to shore up their pack, the Chicks went on a 25-4 run that all but put the game away. The Dolls’ bench shifted Rainbow Fight into the jammer rotation and at one point even went on-off with her and Holly Rocket (both of whom managed to have the most success against the Chicks in terms of leads). While the tightening of the bench led to a consistent run of leads, the Dolls’ packs could not contain the Chicks’ explosive jammer rotation (which added Sammy Destruction in the second half—joining Banshee, Muffin and Sleeper) leading to a lot of 4-0 Dolls’ jams that would not allow them to put a dent in the Chicks’ lead.

A Chicks’ power jam midway through the half helped propel them to a 162-88 lead. While the Dolls would continue to chip away, they could not seem to make up any ground and a messy 14-12 jam to close out the game gave the Chicks a 205-128 win and secured them a spot in the Battle for the Boot for the second consecutive year.

The Dolls, however, are still alive and will play in a second-chance semifinal against the Bandits on May 13.

Nerd Glasses

** All four ToRD teams will be heading to Montreal to play in the annual Beast of the East tournament on April 29-30. The ToRD All Stars and the Vipers will be in action at The Bunker on the 22nd, as Toronto welcomes Ottawa’s Capital City to Toronto.

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