Alliston Junior Roller Derby

Gores Take Down Chicks to Kick Off ToRD’s 2014 Season

Chicks Ahoy! 157 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 218

The Chicks and Gores season opener was the seventh regular season meeting between the two teams. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks and Gores season opener was the seventh regular season meeting between the two teams. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

When last they met, the Chicks Ahoy! and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls were on different paths. The Gores were wrapping up a second place finish in the 2013 regular season standings while the Chicks were putting to rest a rough, rebuilding season that saw them suffer historic losses (all of this in the wake of back-to-back ToRD championships). The Gores took the final game of the 2013 regular season 323-75 in a lopsided, hard-to-watch game. Fast forward half a year and the Chicks Ahoy!, despite not too many changes to the roster, are suddenly back in the conversation, and it’s not that the Gores have slipped, as they too seem poised to contend.

Toronto Roller Derby kicked off its 2014 house league season in style at The Bunker in Downsview Park on Saturday night in front of a packed house of fans who braved the frigid temperatures in order to ring in ToRD’s 8th season. Despite a much more competitive match than their last tilt, in the end the Gores continued their regular season domination over their long-time rivals Chicks Ahoy! with a hard fought 218-157 victory. It was the seventh time the two teams have met in ToRD’s regular season, and the sixth time the Gores emerged victorious.

Chicks Hyena Koffinkat lines up next to Lumberjack Flash. Rookies (and transfers) would have big roles in this game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Chicks’ Hyena Koffinkat lines up next to Lumberjack Flash. Rookies (and transfers) would have big roles in this game. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Both the Chicks and the Gores were bolstered this season by choosing wisely in an entry draft that featured a number of experienced skaters transferring from leagues as far away as Halifax and Vancouver: some of these so called “rookies” had a major impact on the season opener. Both teams seemed hesitant off of the starting whistle, but it was the Chicks who took advantage of some early Gore penalty trouble. One question the Chicks had entering the season was with their jammer rotation and they answered that quickly. Second-year Chicks Heavy Knitter and Chevy Chase-Her (fully healed from injury) were joined by draftees Hyena Koffinkat and the blazingly fast Sneaky Dee to form a rotation that has the potential to see out the season. The Gores also threw a rookie into the rotation as Lumberjack Flash joined Lexi Con, Taranasaurus Rex and R.I. Pink with the star in the opening period. With depleted packs, the Gores couldn’t get much going early on, while the Chicks pulled ahead 29-13 ten minutes in.

Lexi Con (who lef all scorers) attempts to break through a Rebel Rock-It and Rosemary's Rabies two wall. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Lexi Con (who led all scorers) attempts to break through a Rebel Rock-It and Rosemary’s Rabies two-wall. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

But the Gores roared back. After riding through the penalty troubles, the Gores took off, picking up a string of five straight lead-jammer statuses and going on a 48-0 run to retake the lead. Indicative of a season opener, the first half had wild swings in momentum as the rust fell off and both teams struggled through penalty issues and loose packs, with neither able to take control. A final-jam power jam for the Chicks (skated by Sneaky Dee who had 34 first-half points) had them within 9, down 91-82 at the half.

The Gores made a slight adjustment at half time, swapping in rookie transfer Guardian Paingel to the jammer rotation and slipping last year’s second-leading scorer T-Rex into the pack (she had 29 points in the first half to lead the Gores in scoring). The Chicks stuck with the plan and led off with Hyena Koffinkat (who had made a big impression with 35 points in the opening period); unfortunately, the Terminal City transfer found herself sitting for back-to-back penalties that allowed her Vancouver counterpart, Paingel, to make her mark on the game. The Gores came out flying to start the second half and took advantage of the penalty trouble for a 31-0 run that helped them amass a lead that the Chicks, despite determined play, could not overcome. Paingel would pick up three leads in her first three jams and fourteen points in the process (she’d finish with 21 in the half).

Sneaky Dee tries to sneak past Gores vets Santa Muerte and Kandy Barr. Sneaky Dee scored 68 points to lead the Chicks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Sneaky Dee tries to sneak past Gores vets Santa Muerte and Kandy Barr. Sneaky Dee scored 68 points to lead the Chicks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Last year’s leading scorer, Lexi Con, who had a relatively quiet first half, simply took over in the second, picking up 76 points (for 104 on the game). But it was also the pack work that was the difference. Veterans Santa Muerte and Chronic were simply dominant at times, and the leadership of pivot Kandy Barr was undeniable as well. But depth players also stood out with Viktory Lapp playing the most effective game of her career, while rookie (and Halifax transfer) Machu Beatchu looked incredibly comfortable in her first game in Toronto, despite running into some penalty trouble.

The Chicks also saw some depth players step up into big roles, perhaps none more so than R2-Smack-U who often donned the stripe as pivot, Rosemary’s Rabies who has transitioned from jammer to blocker this season and was excellent on the track with some timely snipes and demoralizing drag backs, and Emraged who seems ready and willing to build off of an impressive rookie season in 2013. But it was the veterans who led the way with Robber Blind and an inspired Tess D-Urb-Evil picking up heavy minutes and Rebel Rock-It and Hoff (both returning to the Chicks after Rebel spent last season on CN Power and Hoff spent it on injured reserve) adding depth; Biggley Smallz, who was having a big game, fell into penalty trouble early and eventually fouled out.

Although the Chicks were never down by more than 61 in the half, they were never able to get closer than 30 either and a balanced Gores’ half allowed them to take their victory comfortably. In the end, the Gores showed that they are a team to beat this season, but perhaps more importantly, the Chicks are back as well. The close game is nice a season-opening promise of parity in Toronto Roller Derby.

TJRD Torontosaurus Wrex 236 vs. AJRD Blister Sisters 82

TJRD hosted Alliston for their first JRDA sanctioned game of 2014. (Photo by Joe Mac)

TJRD hosted Alliston for their first JRDA sanctioned game of 2014. (Photo by Joe Mac)

But it wasn’t all about ToRD on Saturday, as the night was capped off by a thoroughly entertaining junior bout that saw Toronto Junior Roller Derby’s Torontosaurus Wrex hold off Alliston’s Blisters Sisters 236-82.

The incredible growth of flat track roller derby has continued unabated and is establishing a system of grassroots support that will provide a platform of continued stability for the growth of the sport; something that is never more apparent than when the juniors take to the track.

AJRD Joe

Alliston’s Blister Sisters enter the track at The Bunker. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Toronto hosted Alliston to kick off their 2014 season and they looked very strong. It was close in the early going, as the hosts led 111-45 at halftime of the JRDA-sanctioned game, but they simply overwhelmed Alliston in the second half to record the 154-point win. It was a thoroughly enjoyable game—high in strategy, stratospheric in effort—a fine showcase of the future of the sport.

Fans will get another chance to watch Toronto’s juniors play on May 10th when they once again team up with their big sisters from ToRD for a game at The Bunker.

***Next up for Toronto Roller Derby: On February 8th ToRD’s marquee team, CN Power, will host Team Ontario in a preseason matchup that will feature some of the finest skaters in the province.

Chicks and Gores Kick Off ToRD’s 8th Season

This will be the seventh regular season meeting between these two teams.

This will be the seventh regular season meeting between these two teams.

Toronto Roller Derby’s greatest feud will be reignited on Saturday night as the Chicks Ahoy! and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls face each other to kick off ToRD’s eighth season. This will be the seventh regular season meeting between the two historic teams, with the Gores dominating those meetings (winning five of six), including a thoroughly dominant 323-75 win in 2013 that amounted to the greatest loss in the Chicks’ history and ended a string of three-straight victories for the Chicks over the Gores dating back to 2011.

The one area where the Chicks have the edge over the Gores is in playoff showdowns. Over five playoff meetings (all in the championship game) the Chicks actually hold a 3-2 edge, including back-to-back wins in 2011/12, the first of which ended the Gores’ twelve-game winning streak (which remains a ToRD record). However, last year marked somewhat of a letdown for the perennial favourites.

When CN Power began to run with a distinct roster after the 2012 season, the Gores and the Chicks were the teams that suffered from roster losses the most, resulting in last year’s “rebuilding” season. The Gores responded much better to the roster shuffle in 2013, finishing second in the regular season standings before being upset by the Smoke City Betties in the semifinal. The Chicks, on the other hand, suffered mightily, finishing last in the regular season standings and being outscored by a remarkable (461 points) 743-282.

Both teams look to return to the form that saw them dominate for much of the early history of the league.

The 2014 Gore-Gore Rollergirls

Photo by Ashlea Wessel (ashleaw.com)

Photo by Ashlea Wessel (ashleaw.com)

Such has been the incredible success of the Gore-Gore Rollergirls, that last season’s second place finish in the regular season and semifinal loss amounts to a bad year: the worst in the team’s history, actually. After having its offense essentially gutted heading into the season (losing two of the league’s greatest jammers in Bambi and Dust Bunny), not much was expected from the three-time ToRD champs. But the skaters in leopard print had other ideas.

RETURNING SKATERS

Last year, the team was led by a core of veterans in the pack including Kandy Barr (who skated 53% of the Gores’ regular season jams in 2013), Gamma Rei (53%), and Emma Dilemma (42%) along with Chronic and Santa Muerte who were excellent when on the track, but also struggled with injuries. A strong rookie class was led by rookie track-time leader Purple Pain (47%). All of these skaters return to the track this season. Another vet, Miss Kitty La Peur also suffered through serious injury issues last year and will look to bounce back.

A number of second and third year skaters will also be looked upon to build on strong seasons, including Full Deck, Viktory Lapp and Wheely Nasty, while highly touted 2013 transfer Amefyst, who never made it to the track last season due to injury, will finally debut for the Gores in 2014.

The biggest surprise last season was how successful the Gores were from the jam line. Led by rookie of the year (and the first rookie to register the league’s highest JQ rating) Lexi Con (228 points, 6.0 points per jam, 76% lead percentage), the Gores also got strong jamming from rookie transfer Taranasaurus Rex (157, 4.6, 59%), and veteran R.I. Pink (85, 3.5, 62%). All three will form the core of the offense this season. Beaver Mansbridge emerged as a viable double threat as well, and put up solid numbers despite limited action (57, 5.2, 45%).

FRESH FACES

The Gores lost a few key pieces in the off season, non bigger than triple threat Foxy Sinatra and long-time blocker/pivot Junkie Jenny (who transferred to the Death Track Dolls). Foxy’s loss affects every aspect of the Gores game, from her punishing pack work to her explosive jamming.

But the Gores did well in an incredibly deep entry draft loaded with experienced transfer skaters. From nearby Royal City, Francesca Fiure is an intelligent skater with a wealth of derby knowledge who could be ready to log serious minutes in the pack. Machu Beatchu was one of the east coast’s biggest prospects when she transferred from Halifax, while Guardian Paingel makes sure the Gores have coast-to-coast representation after transferring from Vancouver’s Terminal City. Blocker, and potential pivot, Moose Knuckles and jammer Lumberjack Flash are both more familiar faces for ToRD fans as they were developed through the D-VAS system and both had strong 2013s.

THE OUTLOOK

The future looks bright for the Gores! Expect them to be right back where they normally are: In contention. This roster easily has the potential to get right back to the top. Look for the Gores to return to the Battle for the Boot in 2014.

The 2014 Chicks Ahoy!

Photo by Ashlea Wessel (ashleaw.com)

Photo by Ashlea Wessel (ashleaw.com)

The Chicks Ahoy! are coming off of their roughest season to date, but look to build upon what amounted to a solid rebuilding year. With the smallest amount of roster change in the off season, and the return of a few key players from injury, the Chicks hope to get back in to winning form this season.

RETURNING SKATERS

The good news for the Chicks is that a majority of the roster returns to pick up where they left off. The three track-time leaders Robber Blind (57% of the Chicks’ jams), Emraged (42%) and Biggley Smallz (42%) are all back and will form a solid core in the pack (Furious Georgia was also in this group and while on the roster, will be on leave this season). Add to that the expected and anticipated return of star blocker Marmighty and veteran leader Hoff, the experience of fourth-year blocker Tess D’Urb-Evil, and the expected improved play of a large number of second and third year skaters who were thrust into unexpectedly prominent roles last season (I’m looking at you Doris Doomsday, Joss Wheelin, R2-Smack-U, Machete Maiden, Heavy Knitter, Mean Streak, and Rosemary’s Rabies) and this looks like a team ready to break out.

Offensively things should be looking up as well. Last year’s jammer core was wracked with injuries but the return of a healthy Chevy Chase-Her and Roadside BombShel will go a long way in securing a consistent offense.

FRESH FACES

Arguably the most important fresh face is not that fresh a face at all; instead, it’s the recognizable face of Rebel Rock-It. A long time ToRD veteran (she began her career as a Bay Street Bruiser when the Bruisers were still a houseleague team), Rebel returns to the team with which she has had the most success and will be a big impact in the pack (and can jam as well). Sneaky Dee was a breakout star for the D-VAS in 2013 and the incredibly speedy skater could have an immediate impact on a jammer rotation that does lack depth. Speaking of that, Hyena Koffinkat is a transfer from Terminal City where she just completed her rookie season as a jammer. And finally, Wheels of Misfortune is another transfer, from nearby Durham Region, who brings considerable track experience to the Chicks’ pack.

THE OUTLOOK

Look for the Chicks to turn things around in 2014 and bounce back from a tough season. In a year where parity could be the dominant storyline, the Chicks provide a dark horse for the narrative and could easily surprise everyone.

***The season opener is this Saturday at The Bunker in Downsview Park. Doors at 5:00 PM, the opening whistle is at 6:00 PM. Stick around afterwards for a very special bout as Toronto Junior Roller Derby hosts Alliston Junior Roller Derby in a junior derby showdown. Tickets are available online or at a number of downtown locations.