Belleville Roller Derby

Toronto All Stars Roar Back to Life with Big Win Over Roc City

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This was the first showdown between Toronto and Roc City since 2012. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

It’s been a while since Toronto Roller Derby and Roc City duelled on the flat track: Five years actually, give or take a few weeks, and at that time in March 2012 the two teams were on very different trajectories. Then, Toronto’s 171-108 win was part of a 10-1 to start the 2012 season, while for Roc City it was one of 6 losses in 7 games to kick of theirs. And although the Roc Stars would eventually turn that year around, they would never quite reach the heights that Toronto would. Eighteen months out of that win, the ToRD All Stars were turning heads in their first WFTDA D1 playoff appearance, the first of three straight appearances at the highest competitive level the sport has to offer.

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Toronto got off to a quick start and were led offensively by Wolverina’s 135 points. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Fast forward to March 2017 and once again the two teams find themselves on a level playing field: Roc City having held steady over the years (still searching for their first D2 playoff appearance) are coming off of a 6-7, 2016 season and were ranked 92nd in the WFTDA coming into the showdown at The Bunker. Toronto, on the other hand, had fallen even faster than they’d previously risen. A disastrous 2016 saw the team go 2-8 with an average margin of loss of 213 points and tumble from a height of 23rd in the WFTDA to the 99th spot they held before Saturday night’s game. The result of a mass retirement of virtually a generation of skaters and the growing pains associated with restructuring and rebranding the All Stars, last season proved to be one of rebuilding. And that rebuilt roster was on full display on Saturday, the results of which should be cause for optimism.

Toronto burst off the starting line off after the opening whistle putting up 17 points over three jams before Roc City could even register a point, all part of a run of 6 straight lead jammer statuses and a 51-24 scoring spree that saw Toronto jump out to an early lead. The lead could have been ever higher but early penalty troubles (part of a 29-penalty opening half for the home team) resulted in a lot of pack disadvantages.

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Despite early penalty troubles, the Toronto defence held steady. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

While Toronto’s jammer rotation included house league favourites Banshee and Monster Muffin, the crowd also got its first glimpse of the season of all-star-exclusive jammers Wolverina (who would lead the game in scoring with an impressive 135 points on a 90% lead percentage) and off-season transfer Pikante (95 points, 80%) from Helskinki’s Kallio Rolling Rainbow (she’s also a member of Portugal’s national team).

Despite the pack penalties, Toronto managed to extend its lead to 103-39 just past the midway point of the opening period, one they extended to 175-71 at the break.

Considering the Toronto skaters have spent most of their season so far knocking each other around in ToRD’s ultra-competitive house league, aside from the penalty troubles (that only got marginally better in the second half), the lines were tight. Constructed around home-team cores, one side of the All Stars pack featured the Chicks Ahoy! core of Boxcar, Joss Wheelin’ and Meg Fenway complemented by the Death Track Dolls’ Kate Silver and the Smoke City Bandits’ Jessica Rabid. Meanwhile, the other line saw the Gore-Gore Rollergirls’ core of Will Wrecker, Santa Muerte and Viktory Lapp completed with the Dolls’ Dawson and the Bandits’ titmouse. Both lines had strong moments throughout and both saw a foul out as well (Kate Silver and Santa Muerte).

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Kandy Krusher paced the offence for Roc City with 48 points. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The second half was a near mirror image of the first: a 45-18 opening five-minute run for Toronto extended to 296-112 with ten minutes to go and although the Roc Stars outscored Toronto 19-18 over the final three jams, it barely put a dent in Toronto’s 380-138 win.

 

It was the first time in nearly three years that Toronto managed to crest the 300-point mark, and along with the contributions from Wolverina and Pikante got 105 points from Banshee and 46 points from Monster Muffin, who had to leave the game early in the second half due to injury.

Roc City was led on the scoreboard by Kandy Krusher’s 48 points and Florence Fightingale’s 44. In the pack they were led by co-captains Hater Tot and double threat Terminal Trend and the hard hitting D-Day.

The All Stars will face off against Ottawa’s Capital City at the Bunker on April 22 before heading to Tri-City’s third-annual Beaver Fever tournament in June. Meanwhile, Toronto Roller Derby returns with its house league playoff quarterfinals on April 8 at the Bunker.

*The Toronto Vipers also made their 2017 debut on Saturday with an impressive 264-179 loss to the significantly more experienced Belleville Roller Derby Bombshells. A strong start to the season for ToRD’s future stars.

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The Vipers (in red) made their 2017 debut. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

 

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The Fresh Get Furious at the 2014 Fresh and Furious Tournament

The freshies continue to look less and less fresh every year as the Cannon Dolls and Les Bûches put on an impressive display of flat track roller derby in the championship final.

The medalists from the 2014 Fresh and the Furious. (Photo by Rocio "Robotomy" Gomez)

The medalists from the 2014 Fresh and the Furious. (Photo by Rocio “Robotomy” Gomez)

When you are at a tournament and looking for stories, many may emerge. The 2014 Fresh and the Furious tournament was no exception. At first, it seemed as if the story of the tournament was going to be the inclusion of junior-program graduates (there were four), and then it appeared as if it was going to be a story of an injury-riddled tournament (two broken legs and an asthma attack—all requiring ambulances), but then—reminiscent of the 2011 version of the tournament—one single team ended up writing its own story.

Capital City’s Cannon Dolls came into this year’s freshie showdown as a virtual unknown. This was the fourth consecutive year that Ottawa’s Capital City has sent a team to the tournament, but it was the first time that they had managed to advance beyond the double elimination round. And of course, not only did they advance, they ended up winning it all. Not since the Goldminer’s Daughters stormed the tournament in 2011, has such an underdog performed so well. And while that tournament saw the Daughters struggle early before coming on strong in the elimination rounds, the Cannon Dolls announced their presence early (they were the first team to surpass the century mark with a 118-33 victory over the Belleville Bombshells) and never really looked back on the way to a thrilling, last-jam 80-78 victory over Les Bûches in the tournament final.

Eventual champs the Cannon Dolls (green) defeated eventual quarterfinalists, Fox Force Five, in the double elimination round. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Eventual champs the Cannon Dolls (green) defeated eventual quarterfinalists, Fox Force Five, in the double elimination round. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

One of the continuing stories over the history of this tournament, has been the increased level of play in each subsequent year. This year was no different, and indeed, may have marked yet new heights. By the end of the tournament the Dolls and Les Bûches had pulled well ahead of the competition, and each did so with vastly different styles. The Cannon Dolls played tidy, efficient flat track roller derby, simple, but smart, and subtle in its sophistication. Led by a seemingly wise-beyond-her-years pivot named Edmonton (but aided in the pack by some surprising talent as well including Apple Sass and Icetina), the Dolls’ offense was paced by three speedy jammers (Labrosse, Kaio-Kensi, and Caume-A-Kazi) who displayed excellent footwork and a natural instinct for the game (it turns out they all come to the game with considerable skating experience in either hockey or figure skating). So while the team was able to field an explosive offense, it was their defense that really defined their success. They gave up only 34 points per game (compared to Les Bûches’ 83) and finished with the top overall point differential (+268) after their 5-0 run.

The host, Derby Debutantes, lost a nail-biter of an elimination game to Royal City's Our Ladies of Pain. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The host, Derby Debutantes, lost a nail-biter of an elimination game to Royal City’s Our Ladies of Pain. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Les Bûches were quite a different team. Full of offensively talented skaters (they too had a solid jammer rotation led by Le Grande Noirceur and Rapidass but completed by triple-threat Commionette), at times defense seemed an after thought. Averaging a tournament record of 121 points per game, they also gave up 75+ points in four of their five games. They had a looseness and swagger to their game that nearly backfired in the semifinal, but that they managed to reign in for the final game.

This year’s final four provided an interesting cross-section of the tournament. Two traditional powers (the defending champs Les Bûches and Toronto Roller Derby’s D-VAS) and two teams who were marking their final four debuts (the Dolls and the South Simcoe Rebel Rollers: another returning team that reached new heights this year). South Simcoe played a similar style game as the eventual winners, but didn’t quite have the depth of talent of the winners. Despite notching their fourth consecutive top-three finish, the D-VAS never seemed to find that extra gear in the tournament, and seemed to run out of steam in the semifinals where they were handily dispatched by the Cannon Dolls 119-7, easily the most lopsided result of the tournament.

There were some other strong leagues and stories in the final eight as well. For the second straight year a team from Orangeville (Fox Force Five) made the quarterfinals (they made it to the Top 4 in 2013) showing the continued strength of that team. Royal City, returned to the quarterfinals after a one-year absence, but the big surprise of the final 8 came from Northumberland’s Ganaraska Gravediggers. Facing an elimination game against the Renegade Derby Dames, a last-gasp pass gave the team the upset victory.

And this takes us back to one of the original stories of this year’s Fresh and Furious tournament: The Rise of the Juniors. They are here. And they are very, very good.

Northumberland's Iggy Popper (left) was one of four junior-program graduates in the tournament. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Northumberland’s Iggy Popper (left) was one of four junior-program graduates in the tournament. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

While there will come a day when we look back upon this particular tournament as a seminal moment in the welcoming of graduates from our country’s various junior programs, it is not hard to see that in a few years, this tournament will be dominated by these skaters. The Gravediggers featured a tall, strong jammer named Iggy Popper, a graduate of both Toronto Junior Roller Derby and Peterborough’s junior program. She was just one of four. The Renegade Derby Dames featured two junior graduates in Shatterproof and Lil’ Mae-Hem (who both played key roles). Finally, ToRD’s D-VAS also debuted a recent graduate, with Fight of the Conchords playing a strong game, showing a nice instinct on the track, particularly for offense.

This year’s tournament once again continued the trend of increasingly impressive performances from apparently “fresh” teams, a testament to the strength of leagues’ training programs but also the impact of having junior skaters graduate to the senior levels: they are going to bring a lot of experience with them to the senior levels of the sport, raising the bar considerably.

In the end, Les Bûches and the Cannon Dolls proved to be head and shoulders above the competition: game play and strategy, endurance and discipline—the final was played at a level that belied the “fresh” moniker of the tournament.

THE ALL-NERD TEAM

It was hard to narrow down the immense level of talent displayed by the dozens and dozens of skaters who took part in the tournament, but if I had to throw together a single line of skaters (with two jammers) this would be it:

Pivot: Edmonton (Cannon Dolls)

Blocker: Crazy Squirrel (Renegade Derby Dames)

Blocker: Block Quebecois (D-VAS)

Triple Threat: Cammionette (Les Bûches)

Jammer(s): Labrosse (Cannon Dolls), Le Grande Noirceur (Les Bûches)

***A big congratulations should also be sent out to the D-VAS’ Holly Rocket, who picked up the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Heart Award, given to a player who demonstrates heart, determination and a positive attitude over the course of the tournament.

Toronto jammer Holly Rocket won the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Award for heart, determination and positivity on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Toronto jammer Holly Rocket won the first ever Louisa Kalimeris Award for heart, determination and positivity on the track. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

THE RESULTS

Double Elimination: ArenaD-VAS 67 vs. DRRDy Farmers 23

Fox Force Five 74 vs. Derby Debutantes 63

Belleville Bombshells 33 vs. Cannon Dolls 118

D-VAS 83 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 58

Fox Force Five 38 vs. Cannon Dolls 63

Debutantes 88vs. Belleville 66 (eliminated)

Our Ladies of Pain 90 vs. Debutantes 88 (elim.)

Fox Force Five 75 vs. DRRD 37 (elim.)

 

 

 

Double Elimination: BubbleGanaraska Gravediggers 32 vs. South Simcoe Rebel Rollers 67

Queen’s Court 91 vs. Windsor A-Salt 62

NEOFights 105 vs. Les Bûches 150

Thickets 68 vs. Renegade Derby Dames 87

South Simcoe 72 vs. Queen’s Court 56

Ganaraska 50 vs. Windsor 49 (elim.)

Les Bûches 111 vs. Renegade 78

Thickets 117 vs. NEOFights 114 (elim.)

Queen’s Court 31 (elim.) vs. Thickets 54

Renegade 73 (elim.) vs. Ganaraska 76

 

Quarter Finals

D-VAS 70 vs. Ganaraska 41

South Simcoe 70 vs. Fox Force Five 51

Cannon Dolls 59 vs. Thickets 15

Les Bûches 127 vs. Our Ladies of Pain 61

Semi Finals

D-VAS 7 vs. Cannon Dolls 119

South Simcoe 90 vs. Les Bûches 139

Third Place

D-VAS 68 vs. South Simcoe 56

Championship

Les Bûches 78 vs. Cannon Dolls 80

 

** The games were boutcast in HD by Layer9 . Check here for the complete archives.