Beast of the East 2014

Gore-Gore Rollergirls Prove to be the Beastliest at BOE 2014

Gores become first Toronto team to win the Beast of the East at Montreal’s seventh edition of the popular tournament.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls moments after the final whistle in the championship game. It was the first Beast win for a ToRD team. (Photography by Joe Mac)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls moments after the final whistle in the championship game. It was the first Beast win for a ToRD team. (Photography by Joe Mac)

It has become quite a tradition that every spring, roller derby nerds in eastern Canada dutifully fill out their Beast of the East brackets. Some will even work out a few different versions based on hunches, hot teams, or un-hittable skaters.

Every year, without fail, by the end of the tournament, it becomes obvious that filling out this bracket is an exercise in futility.

2014 was no different, indeed it was the most unbracketable Beast in a long line of unbracketable Beasts, a testament to the format—beginning with a sixteen team double elimination round featuring 20 minute games—and the participants—house league teams with little inter-city experience and little data on which to base these matchups. It’s also just one of the myriad reasons why people have fallen in love with Montreal Roller Derby’s annual Beast of the East tournament, and why that affection grows year after year.

Very few prognosticators had picked Toronto’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls to win it all, a team that had failed to live up to high expectations in the past, and fewer still (IE: NOT ONE) saw their opponent in the final, Roller Derby Quebec’s Casse-Gueules, doing anything but providing great warm-up games for the true contenders in the early going. Power house teams were eliminated early (Les Contrabanditas), pre-tournament favourites fell in the quarterfinals (Death Track Dolls) and heart rates went through the roof as game after game after game came down to final jams, or even overtime when final jams just weren’t enough.

DOUBLE ELIMINATION ROUND

Forest City's Luscious Lunch Ladies provided one of the biggest surprises of the tournament: it took a Riot Squad overtime jam to finally knock them off.

Forest City’s Luscious Lunch Ladies provided one of the biggest surprises of the tournament: it took a Riot Squad overtime jam to finally knock them off.

The tournament kicked off with what everyone at the time thought was a pretty major upset, a last-gasp Casse-Gueules win over ToRD’s Smoke City Betties (54-49). It turns out that game was just an omen for what was to come: tight games and unexpected results.

There were a few blowouts, but even those turned heads (La Racaille’s 117-32 against a Riot Squad team that was playing its first games with a newly built roster), but for the most part, the games were close. The Smoke City Betties, Durham Region’s Motor City Madames (to their leagumates the Atom Smashers), Forest City’s Thames Fatales and Guelph’s Killer Queens all went two-and-done; meanwhile, led by ToRD’s Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Death Track Dolls, the surprising Casse-Gueules and Lunch Ladies (neither team having ever won a game in this tournament previously) won their first two games to book a spot directly in the quarterfinals.

The “must-win” elimination games that closed out day one just hinted at the thrilling action that would come. The surprising Atom Smashers (after a head-turning matchup against Les Filles du Roi and a 100-point performance in their second game) stuck around for half the game against La Racaile, before the veteran Montreal skaters pulled away in the end, ending the tournament for one of the “dark horse” picks of the tournament; the Riot Squad finally started to get it together by nearly doubling up FDR, while their two Rideau Valley leaguemates had to square off with the Prime Sinisters (led by their incredible one-two punch of Margaret Choke and Brennan) knocking out the defending champion (but totally rebuilt) Slaughter Daughters. Finally Quebec’s Rouge et Gore played strong late, shocking hosts Les Contrabanditas with a last jam comeback to move on to the quarter finals for the second year in a row.

KNOCKOUT ROUND

Rideau Valley's Prime Sinisters were the quarterfinal victims of Casse-Gueules impressive run.

Rideau Valley’s Prime Sinisters were the quarterfinal victims of Casse-Gueules impressive run.

Quarterfinals

The first three quarterfinal games provided one of the most exciting runs in Beast of the East history, beginning with the Casse-Gueules overcoming a bad late-game decision (when they called it off early) to hold off a surging Prime Sinisters, 50-46. In the second game, the Luscious Lunch Ladies, led by Team France jammer Pepe Le Punch, mounted a final jam 20-point comeback to force overtime (the first in BOE history), but had little left in the extra jam as the Riot Squad locked down the defense and won by 9. The Death Track Dolls never seemed to get into their game against a hungry La Racaille, and while their talent kept it close for the most part, they fell by 25 (86-61) in the end.

Finally, in an all-Gores matchup, Toronto’s Gores managed to hold on long enough despite a desperate push from the tireless Rouge et Gore out of Quebec (they skated with eight players for much of the tournament and stuck with a two jammer [!!] rotation of Nana Bistouri and Minnie Small for all four games). The Rouge et Gore’s Bistouri made three passes in the final 40 seconds, but Gore’s jammer Beaver made the one scoring pass necessary to book her team’s first spot in the final four since 2011 (64-61).

Semifinals

The semifinals picked up right where the previous round left off. Casse-Gueules showed once again that their performance in the tournament had little to do with luck and a lot to with preparation, and held off a Riot Squad team that visibly got stronger as the weekend went on, while the Rideau Valley team mounted a late-game push, they seemingly mistakenly called the final jam off with no-time left on the game clock (and about 50 seconds left on the jam clock) and down 75-68. The other semifinal was yet another last-jam nail biter, with the Gore-Gore Rollergirls coming back from nearly 20 down in the final two jams (they were down by 32 at one point) to shock the tournament’s most successful team historically, La Racaille, 68-67.

In the six playoff games leading up to the medal matchups, the combined point differential at the end of the regulation time was a paltry 40 points (more than half of that coming from one game). It was an extraordinary show of parity.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Casse-Gueules provided and intense, back and forth final.

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Casse-Gueules provided and intense, back-and-forth final.

Finals

The final games (now played with two 20-minute halves) did not disappoint. La Racaille picked up its fifth medal in seven tournaments with a 148-131 win, and they were led by long-time skater K Dawg (who has been a member of La Racaille since the first BOE in 2008) and captain Russion Cruelette in the pack, with Legs//Cite and Falcon Punch leading the way with the star. Riot Squad (being rebuilt around a core of former Slaughter Daughter skaters including Sister Disaster, Hannah Murphy and Amanda Pummeler), really came together as the games went on (as did the other two Rideau Valley teams for that matter).

The final between the upstart Casse and the relentless Gores was also thrilling, tied 71 at half time, the Casse led for much of the game only to see the Gores roar back time and time again. The Casse were led in the pack by Feline Dion, Lady Mariane, and So Viet, with Beat’on The Quads, La Trappeuse and Booty Allen providing the jamming. Gores captain Santa Muerte fouled out 16 minutes into the first half, but instead of collapsing, the Gores thrived under the adversity, getting clutch jamming from a deep rotation (LumberJack Flash, Beaver Mansbridge, R.I. Pink, Guardian Paingel, and Taranasaurus Rex), and phenomenal on-track leadership from veteran Chronic and first-year transfer skater Machu Beatchu. All weekend long, the Gores showed an overwhelming, sometimes frantic, hunger that kept them in tight games late; they saved their most-calm performance of the weekend for late in the championship game, holding on for the 129-114 victory.

NERD’s PICKS

Machu Beatchu receives her MVP medallion from Plastic Patrick.

Machu Beatchu receives her Team MVP medallion from Plastic Patrick.

MVP: Machu Beatchu (Gore-Gore Rollergirls)

Playing in her first Beast, the Halifax-trained skater turned heads with her wonderful skating and incredibly aggressive blocking. Named Gores MVP as well, Machu is a young player with a bright future. Her play in the pack (not to mention as a capable relief jammer) intensified as the tournament progressed, and she was flat-out dominant in the final game.

*Honourable mentions to Beat’on The Quads, Chronic, Feline Dion, Legs//Cite, and Hannah Murphy.

Breakout Player: Beat’on The Quads (Casse-Gueules)

A phenomenal jammer, with surprising lower body strength, Beat’on The Quads was the captain of the most impressive (and consistent) team in the tournament. As a jammer, she was tireless, capable of pulling off back-to-backs and holding it together in clutch situations: nursing a slim lead, she actually mistakenly called off what could have been the final jam with time left on the clock in a must-win against the Sinisters, but, unfazed, went right back out, nabbed lead and calmly tapped her hips. It was a defining moment for a team that came of age this weekend.

*Honourable mentions to Feline Dion, Lumberjack Flash, and BlackeyE.

Photo by Joe Mac

No one outside of Quebec City saw the Casse-Gueules making it all the way to the final; the most surprising team in a tournament of surprises.

Breakout Team: Casse-Gueules (Roller Derby Quebec)

What’s left to say about a team that came in so-far under the radar that they were barely mentioned and yet managed to win four games in a row to make it all the way to the final? Last year it was Casse’s leaguemates Rouge et Gore who took home this prize, and this year roller derby fans were once again reminded of the quality organization that is Roller Derby Quebec.

*Honourable mentions to Luscious Lunch Ladies, Atom Smashers.

***This year’s Beast of the East was filmed by CUTV, who managed to come in on short notice, with no prior sports or derby experience, and did a fantastic job.

 

Advertisements

Montreal and Toronto Kick off Beast with WFTDA Showdown.

For the second year in a row, the New Skids on the Block host CN Power on the eve of the Beast of the East.

These two teams are building the best rivalry in Canadian roller derby. This will be the fifth meeting between them.

These two teams are building the best rivalry in Canadian roller derby. This will be the fifth meeting between them.

184, 263, 89, 17.

These are the point differentials from the four times that Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and Toronto’s CN Power have met since 2010. After the peak 284-21 win for the Skids at the 2011 Quad City Chaos, the gap has been narrowing; with that narrowing becoming all the more dramatic over the past year since the two faced off on the eve of last year’s Beast of the East.

By all metrics, this gap should narrow even more on the track at Arena St. Louis on Friday night, in what promises to be an electric atmosphere.

One thing you can be sure of is that Montreal will show up ready. Aside from a surprising blip at last year’s playoffs where a lacklustre performance blew a clear road to Champs, the Skids have been Canada’s most consistent and durable performers. And when it comes to those rare face offs against Canadian competition, they seem to always enter hungry for a victory. Never was this more evident than while repelling a ferocious Toronto attack at last month’s Quad City Chaos.

And at this stage in their development, this seems to be the last barrier of separation between Toronto and the other elite teams of the WFTDA’s Division 1: consistency, and the focus that this consistency requires.

After a reputation-building performance at last year’s playoffs, Toronto seemed to grow from the experience, kicking off 2014 with lopsided victories over formerly close opponents in Killamazoo and Bleeding Heartland before pushing Montreal to the very limits of their considerable abilities and experience in the thrilling 17-point loss on their home track in Toronto. But then everything seemed to change at halftime of another anticipated QCC matchup against a rebuilding Ohio team.

Montreal's Smack Daddy and Georgia W. Tush try to free jammer Mel E Juana from Toronto pivot Candy Crossbones at last month's Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Smack Daddy and Georgia W. Tush try to free jammer Mel E Juana from Toronto pivot Candy Crossbones at last month’s Quad City Chaos. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Taking an impressive 30-point lead into the break, it was a tale of two teams in the second half as Toronto came out loose, unfocused and unprepared for the brutal onslaught that a stone-faced and determined Ohio team unleashed. The considerably more experienced skaters from Columbus gave Toronto a swift lesson in the level of discipline and focus needed to compete at the WFTDA’s highest level on a consistent basis; by the time Toronto came around in the period (after a 97-14 Ohio run to start the second half), the game was already out of reach.

Nonetheless, it was a strong showing against a higher ranked opponent and Toronto had to have high expectations heading into London’s Anarchy in the UK, sporting a franchise-high rank of 13th. CN Power instead looked woefully out of place, suffering the most lopsided loss in their history (477-41 to London) before falling to Detroit, a team ranked 21-spots below them who had come into the tournament desperate to improve their lot and secure their perilous spot in the top Division; the win over Toronto guaranteed that.

It was a Toronto team that looked far removed from the one that had taken Atlanta to the limits on the biggest stage only six months prior.

Montreal and Toronto play in the 2010 QCC. (photo by Derek Lang)

Montreal and Toronto play in the 2010 QCC. (photo by Derek Lang)

The Skids don’t have as big a sample size on which be judged so far in 2014, but from what little we have seen, they seem to have learned from their so-so performance at Divisionals. Indeed, the Montreal team that showed up at QCC ’14 was the hungriest, most focused Skids team that I’ve seen in quite some time. Their thoroughly (almost shockingly) dominant win over Ohio (the very team that ended their shot at Champs in last year’s playoffs) was impressive to say the least. And the poise that they showed in repelling Toronto was evidence of their considerable experience playing at this elite level. Those hours on the track against the best this game has to offer were the difference. And as far as Toronto has come, they simply have yet to clock that all-important track time.

However, Toronto has bounced back from inconsistency before. It’s easy to forget that at the QCC ’13 Toronto lost to a Rideau Valley team that was (at the time) 30+ spots below them in the rankings. They built off of that learning experience, and used it to propel them to the D-1 playoffs. They will need to do so again this season with the Anarchy performance. They’ve got a tough schedule ahead of them, and while they need to learn from their losses, they simply don’t have time to dwell on them.

There won’t be much change in rosters from QCC to this game (Toronto jammer Rainbow Fight remains on injury reserve after suffering a serious internal injury against Killamazoo); however, Nasher the Smasher draws back into the pack and this could make a considerable difference for Toronto (she was named team MVP at Anarchy); a truly elite player, her on-track leadership will be a boon for Toronto.

Montreal's Honey Badger tries to get around Toronto's Dyna Hurtcha. The QCC '14 showdown was the closest game between the two rivals. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal’s Honey Badger tries to get around Toronto’s Dyna Hurtcha. The QCC ’14 showdown was the closest game between the two rivals. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal seemed to answer the Iron Wench question (that question being “How do you replace the greatest jammer our country has ever seen?”) by showing considerable depth at the position, relying on a mix of vets and “rookies.” The supremely talented Miracle Whips has all the potential to be a top-level jammer, but is still prone to the kinds of mistakes that experience has a way of correcting.

A year ago nearly to the day, these two teams played an unbelievably exciting half of roller derby in front of one of the most appreciative and electric crowds I’ve seen for this sport in this country. Toronto seemed overwhelmed by the moment and faded in the second half. This year, however, Toronto has shown that at their best, they are ready for the spotlight. The question remains: Is Montreal willing to share it?

**The game will be streamed live by CUTV. Tune in to mtlrollerderby.com beginning at 6:50 PM on Friday, April 25th.

Beast of the East 7: A Preview of BOE 2014

Two days, sixteen teams, twenty-six games, and one winner. The 2014 Beast of the East promises excitement and unpredictability.

BEAST 2014 posterThe seventh annual Beast of the East comes at an exciting time in eastern Canadian roller derby history, and specifically in Ontario and Quebec’s history. Ontario alone now has eight full WFTDA member leagues (three of whom will be represented at the tournament). On top of that, Toronto is now ranked in the Top 20 (although that may change in the next rankings), Tri-City remains on the cusp of Division 1, and both Rideau Valley and Hammer City have more-than-valid shots at a place in this year’s D-2 playoff tournament. These are, indeed, boom times, and when there is such consistent competition at the top, it inevitably filters down through all ranks of the sport.

The great charm of the double-elimination Beast of the East is that it is exclusively a house league tournament, featuring the future (and even some current) stars of the sport in the region. This year, seven teams will be playing in their seventh Beast (Forest City’s Thames Fatales, the three Montreal teams and Toronto’s three representatives were all competitors in the original Beast), while another (Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters) will be in its sixth. Added to that mix of experience will be a contingent of new teams and leagues as well: Four teams will be making their second appearance, and two will be debutantes: the Killer Queens will be the first representatives from Guelph’s Royal City Roller Girls to make an appearance, while Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will join their leaguemates, the Motor City Madames, who will play in their second tournament.

These teams will have a lot to live up to, as by most accounts, last year’s tournament was the best of the bunch, featuring the highest level of competition the tournament had ever seen.

The 2013 Beast was also a tournament of firsts:

THE CONTENDERS

Least year's champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

Least year’s champs, the Slaughter Daughters, have gone through a major off-season overhaul.

If you look at the history of this tournament, it has been one dominated by three leagues. From 2008-2010 the hosts placed nine teams in the Top 3 (peaking in 2010 when the Montreal home teams ran the board). But since that time, only La Racaille (second last year) has medaled. The only other league to come close to this level is Toronto, who has had five medalists over the years. And finally, Rideau Valley’s Slaughter Daughters have absolutely dominated the past three tournaments, winning two and losing in the final of the other.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

After a few years of struggling to place teams, Montreal showed signs last year that they are ready for the top once again. All three teams are potential contenders, with winners of the recent MTLRD round-robin kick off tournament Les Contrabanditas leading the way (they remain the only host team to yet win the Beast). But that tournament was tight (La Racaille only lost to the Ditas by 3 points), and all three are viable threats.

Toronto Roller Derby has also become a perennial contender with both the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy! picking up top three finishes in the past three years. While the Chicks (currently tied for second in ToRD’s house league) won’t be in this year’s tournament, the defending ToRD champs the Dolls will be back along with a resurgent Gore-Gore Rollergirls (who have underachieved since a heartbreaking loss in the 2011 championship game). Both should be considered threats.

The biggest (and most exciting) off-season change in Ontario roller derby was the reshuffling of Rideau Valley’s house league into three teams, two of whom, have to be considered contenders. The Prime Sinisters and the Riot Squad are both loaded with talent including many members of RVRG’s A-level travel team, the Vixens. While neither is quite the juggernaut that the Daughters were, they are both threats in this tournament.

THE DARK HORSES

Durham Region's Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

Durham Region’s Atom Smashers will be making their debuts and could turn a few heads.

After last year’s thrilling run to the quarterfinals (including a last gasp 2-point victory in a must-win game against Toronto’s Smoke City Betties), no one should be surprised by the strength of Roller Derby Quebec’s Rouge et Gore. Nine members of the team form the core of the RDQ’s travel team, Les Duchesses, add coach (and member of Canada’s National Men’s Team) El Tennant to the bench, and this is a team that has a lot of track experience. Emboldened by last year’s run to the final eight, they should be a team to watch this year as well.

One team that may be off of people’s radars is Durham Region’s Atom Smashers. The Smashers are a team that features a nice balance of veterans (including former and current Toronto skaters in Amefyst and Lucid Lou, who appeared in this tournament with the Death Track Dolls for years) and up-and-coming stars. They have dominated Durham Region the last two years, winning the Gibson’s Cup twice (DRRD’s championship) and compiling an 11-2 record over that time.

NERD’S PICKS

This will be Riot Squad's fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This will be Riot Squad’s fourth appearance in the tournament, but their best shot at winning it.

This year’s tournament feels particularly wide open, and given the unpredictable nature of the 20-minute format, making predictions sometimes seems like an exercise in futility. Nonetheless, the Nerd sees a final eight consisting of the three Montreal teams, Toronto’s Dolls and Gores, Rideau Valley’s Riot Squad and Prime Sinisters and Quebec’s Rouge et Gore, with a potential Sinisters vs. Riot Squad showdown in there as well.

On paper, these two Rideau Valley teams are virtually equal, and given the amount of collective experience on the two rosters, both should be considered top contenders to take top spot. Although the edge in depth may go to the Sinisters, the slightest edge in experience at the top could be given to the Riot Squad.

Of course, predictions are meaningless once the whistle blows. And first whistle blows at 8:00 AM on Saturday.

***The tournament will be boutcast (at least some of the tournament: stay tuned to the event page for further details and schedule).

***Tomorrow the Nerd looks at Friday night’s CN Power / New Skids on the Block showdown.

Beast of the East 2014 Participants Named

Beast of the East 2014 is the seventh annual house league roller derby tournament hosted by Montreal Roller Derby. It is a sixteen team, two-day, double elimination tournament featuring teams exclusively from eastern Canada. Listed are this year’s participants by league.

Montreal Roller Derby logoMontreal Roller Derby

La Racaille

Les Contrabanditas

Les Filles du Roi

All three Montreal teams return once again. Last year, La Racaille (champs in 2009, runners up in 2008 and 2010), reached their fourth final. After Les Filles du Roi’s victory in 2010, Les Contrabanditas (runners up in 2009) remain the only Montreal team to have yet won the tournament.

Rideau Valley ROller Gilrs logoRideau Valley Roller Girls

Slaughter Daughters

Riot Squad

Prime Sinisters

Although the Slaughter Daughters are the defending champions (and winners also in 2011), it is a very new roster that will take part in this year’s tournament. After last season, RVRG formed a new home team (the Prime Sinisters) and re-distributed their rosters. This is the fourth appearance for the Riot Squad and will mark the out-of-Ottawa debut for the Sinisters (they’ll debut at home against the Slaughter Daughters on April 12).

ToRD logoToronto Roller Derby

Death Track Dolls

Gore-Gore Rollergirls

Smoke City Betties

For the first time in Beast history, only three teams will represent Toronto Roller Derby in the tournament (the Chicks Ahoy! did not get selected this season). Last year’s third-place finishers, the Dolls (also third place in 2011) lead ToRD’s charge. The Gore-Gore Rollergirls were runners up in 2011, while the Betties have not cracked the final four since 2009.

Forest City logoForest City Derby Girls

Thames Fatales

Luscious Lunch Ladies

The Thames Fatales will join the Montreal and Toronto teams as the only participants in all seven Beast of the East tournaments. Last year, Thames made the quarter finals for the first time since 2010. The Lunch Ladies will be making their second consecutive appearance in the tournament.

Roller Derby Quebec logoRoller Derby Quebec

Le Rouge et Gore

Les Casse Gueules

Although they competed as Les Duchesses in 2011 and 2012, last year, RDQ divided its travel team into two home teams, both of whom made their Beast debuts. Le Rouge et Gore turned some heads with an impressive run to the quarterfinals. Les Casse Gueules will be looking for its first tournament win.

Durham Region Roller Derby LogoDurham Region Roller Derby

Atom Smashers

Motor City Madames

The Motor City Madames return to the Beast for the second time after an appearance in 2012. This time though, they’ll be joined by their leaguemates the Atom Smashers, who will be making their debut.

Royal City Roller Girls LogoRoyal City Roller Girls

Killer Queens

Guelph’s Royal City has its first representative at the Beast of the East as the Killer Queens, one of three Royal City home teams, makes its debut. Royal City will be the fifteenth league to take part in the tournament.

The Beast of the East will take place over two days beginning on April 26th. For more information stay tuned to Montreal Roller Derby’s website.