It was eleven years in the making: on Saturday night at The Bunker, the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy! squared off in the Battle for the Boot for the first time. The two teams have a shared history, born at the same moment when one of Toronto’s original flat track roller derby clubs (The Terrors) split into four teams to compensate for growing numbers. While it was a historic first showdown between the squads, both teams are familiar with battling for the boot. This was the third trip to the ToRD championship for the Dolls (who won in 2013 and 2014) and the seventh for the Chicks, who are defending champions and hold the record for the most Boot victories with four. The two teams have also faced each other three times this season with the Dolls taking the memorable regular season showdown before falling to the Chicks in the ToRD quarterfinals and in the third-place game at this year’s Beast of the East. At the Battle for the Boot on Saturday, the Chicks kept the winning streak alive capturing their fifth Toronto Roller Derby championship with a 190-123 win.
This game played out like a replay of the quarterfinal showdown between the two: a gritty, hard-fought battle in which the Chicks were able to stay a stride or two ahead of the Dolls and exploited the opportunities they did have, scoring in surges to pull away. The Dolls got the first lead of the game, with Rainbow Fight giving them a quick 4-0 advantage before the Chicks picked up three straight lead jammers and put together a 17-0 run to take control early.
Although the Dolls were gifted with a power jam with the score 17-8, a smothering Chicks’ power kill slowed the Dolls’ momentum and shut down Holly Rocket on the jam. The Chicks ended up dominating Rocket, the regular season leading scorer, in the first half, holding her to four points on six jams. It was actually a similar story for the whole team in the opening half, with the Dolls scoring the vast majority of their points on star passes (35-27). Only Rainbow fight had success against the stifling Chicks’ defence, picking up lead jammer five times, but only able to convert that into 21 points.
Meanwhile, for the Chicks, the offence was clicking, with the Chicks scoring in bunches. Boxcar has had little success jamming against the Dolls this season, so the team shifted her back into the pivot role: a move that proved wise as she provided some excellent and timely offence for her jammers (playing on an incredible line anchored by her, Joss Wheelin’ and Vag Lightning). The Chicks put together two dominant four-jam stretches in the first half, culminating in 20-0 and then 21-0 runs led by a nearly untouchable Banshee (who had 53 points in the first half) and an unstoppable Sleeper Hold (who had a 100% lead percentage and 29 points at the break).
And, as it happened in the quarterfinal game, the final jam of the half proved critical: a 9-point jam had brought the Dolls back within range (down 85-60), but then a scrambly, unfocused final jam (with a mismatch on the jammer line) saw the Chicks close out the half with a 14-2 pickup to snatch momentum back and increase their lead significantly, 99-62, at the half.
At that point, the damage was mostly done, and the Dolls would never be able to make up that margin. Though certainly not from a lack of trying.
The second half proved to be a virtual stalemate. The Dolls made some adjustments, sending Getcha Kicks to the jam line for example, and in a series of matchups with Banshee was able to stop the first half’s leading scorer. After a dominant opening 30, Banshee was stopped at every turn by the Dolls and was held to only 10 points and no lead jammer statuses in the second. Monster Muffin, who was similarly stifled in the first period, picked up some of the slack with a 22-point second half.
The Dolls picked up more leads than the Chicks in the second (doubling them up actually, 15-7), but had a hard time converting them into points. For example, while Rainbow Fight finished the game with an impressive 85% lead percentage (over 13 jams), she was only able to put up 16 points in the second half (and 37 overall) as the Chicks’ packs were able to transition quickly from defence to offence, freeing their jammers and limiting the damage.
Despite the succession of lead jammers, the Dolls just couldn’t cut into the gap. Things were virtually even in the half right up until the final two jams, when the Chicks blew the game wide open, sealing the deal with a definitive 30-9 run over the final minutes of the game to pull away for the 67-point win.
The win capped an impressive season for the Chicks, one that included a third-place finish at the Beast of the East tournament in April. The champs got a full-pack effort in the Battle for the Boot, perhaps encapsulated by the tenacious play of Rosemary’s Rabies, who has proven to be a thorn in the side of the Dolls this season. And while there are no skaters remaining from the Chicks first Boot victory in 2008, Robber Blind captured her fourth ToRD championship with the team since being part of the team’s second Boot win in 2011.
After a season-opening loss, the Vipers kicked off the evening by picking up their third win in a row to improve to 3-1 on the season. The Vipers continue to show game-by-game and even jam-by-jam improvement this year, and put together their most complete game yet in the 223-105 win over Norfolk County Roller Derby.
- You can watch both games on layer9.ca.