Burn ‘N RubHer

Bruisers Hold Off Muddy River in Tight Bout at the Bunker

The Bay Street Bruisers hosted (and managed to hold off) Moncton’s Muddy River Rollers over the weekend, while the D-VAS overcame some early penalty troubles to outpace Ottawa’s Capital City.

Chronic leads the Bruisers victory lap after a hard-fought win against the Lumbersmacks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Chronic leads the Bruisers victory lap after a hard-fought win against the Lumbersmacks. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Muddy River’s Lumbersmacks (5-4 on the 2014 season) rolled into Toronto this past weekend for a much-anticipated showdown against Toronto’s Bay Street Bruisers (6-3). Both teams were coming off of big wins to end mini-losing streaks: The Bruisers ended a two-game slide with a massive win over Nashville’s B-team last month (avenging a loss from earlier in the season), while Muddy River had won two in a row (by a combined score of 707 points) over east competition after an early summer three-game losing streak had dampened their momentum. Muddy River is a WFTDA apprentice league and has picked up great experience this season against other apprentice leagues (Quebec, Fog City) and WFTDA B-Teams (Montreal’s Sexpos). The showdown in the Bunker did not disappoint, with both teams showing up to play and the Bruisers holding on for a narrow 235-214 win.

With their jammer approaching, Android WK and Tushy Galore look to clear Box Blocker from the front of the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

With their jammer approaching, Android WK and Tushy Galore look to clear Box Blocker from the front of the pack. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The opening few jams were indicative of the type of battle that would ensue: when five on five, both teams played a stifling lock-down defense that left little room for offensive maneuvering. The score was knotted 2-2 three minutes in before Bruisers veteran jammer titmouse was able to power her way past a dynamic two wall of Hail Destroyer and Knocker Walker and pick up 3 points to give the Bruisers an early lead.

Speaking of duos, the Bruisers’ Android WK and Tushy Galore were devastating together and did a nice job of counteracting some timely offense from Moncton’s ShamRock Her and drew the first power jam of the game (titmouse the jammer recipient). Toronto took advantage of this first error and extended their lead to 29-9 ten minutes into the opening half.

ShamRock Her and Hail Destroyer attempt to hold back titmouse. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

ShamRock Her and Hail Destroyer attempt to hold back titmouse. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

But Muddy River roared back almost immediately. Aided by Walker, ShamRock Her locked in some effective one-on-one work against the Bruisers’ jammer Lexi Con (who looks to be back to nearly 100% after a bad leg break early this season), allowing Moncton super-jammer Burn’N RubHer to rip up the track for 14 points to pull the Lumbersmacks back to within 6 (29-23) and force a Bruisers time out.

Along with Burn’N, Muddy River jammer Snipress also gave the Brusiers defense fits all night and with Muddy River pivot Godley leading a strong offensive push, the visitors picked up a power jam and took advantage, forcing the first lead change of the game and giving Moncton a 61-59 point lead. The teams would trade leads after that until a Sleeper Hold 12-point jam extended the home team’s margin to 85-73.

While Muddy River pushed hard late in the first, the Bruisers attempted to lock things down, getting strong play from all across the experience spectrum. Bruisers veteran (and former CN Power skater) Chronic, laying out some big hits, was devastating at times, while first-year Bruiser Lowblowpalooza rose to the occasion in the first half as well. A chaotic final jam in which both teams picked up jammer penalties almost made all of the work of the opening half for naught as things remained virtually even at the break, with the Bruisers ahead just slightly 104-102.

Bruisers jammer Sleeper Hold approaches a two wall of Billie and Knocker Walker. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Bruisers jammer Sleeper Hold approaches a two wall of Billie and Knocker Walker. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Bruisers came out flying in the second half, putting together the longest sustained stretch of control from one team in the game. Things kicked off with Bruiser jammer Bellefast taking advantage of a power start to pad the home team’s lead. Five minutes into the second Lexi Con was the recipient of another power jam and suddenly the Bruisers had built the most significant lead of the game, up 144-107, 10 minutes into the second.

Muddy River was able to briefly cut the lead back down to 20 points when Snipress took advantage of a power jam, only to herself pick up a cutting penalty on the same jam, allowing the Bruisers to pick up a quick 9 points and reestablish a 171-146 margin.

The Lumbersmacks’ third jammer Tootsie Valentino seemed to get stronger as the game wore on, gaining comfort within the tight-pack defense from Toronto and helped keep her team close, down by 25 at the midway point of the second.

Misery Mae hold up Burn'N RubHer on the inside line. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Misery Mae hold up Burn’N RubHer on the inside line. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The last half of the game was typified by one-on-one battles (typified by the agressive play of Bruisers’ Misery Mae–which eventually caused her to foul out–and the strong positional blocking of Just Jes for the hosts, and the relentless chest-to-chest blocking of Moncton’s Box Blocker for the guests) and the continuing trend of dueling defenses, so long as neither team slipped into penalty trouble (early on the Lumbersmacks had some troubles with multi-player blocks, but adjusted as the game went on). Walker and Destroyer continued their strong play late and were key in helping the Lumbersmacks narrow the lead to 209-197 with only 4 minutes to play.

Mid-season Bruisers call-up (and skating her first year in ToRD) Sleeper Hold was strong all game and picked up a vital lead against Snipress with only 3 minutes to go to pad the home team’s lead 218-201 and force a time out call from the visitors. Bellefast responded with another critical lead pick up, followed by a Burn’N RubHer vs. Sleeper Hold final jam matchup. While Burn’N would pick up lead, she’d be drawn into a track cut. A tired Sleeper was forced to pass the star to pivot Android WK, and a key hit from Tushy Galore on a returning Burn’N would prove to be the final blow as the Bruisers held on for the thrilling, hard fought 21-point victory.

Muddy River went on to continue their Ontario road trip with a 311-86 loss against Alliston’s Misfit Militia on Sunday, who also happens to be the Bruisers next opponent (on October 25th in Aliston as part of a double header also featuring Team Canada and Team Ontario). While the skaters from Moncton continue to impress, their weakness at this point seems simply to be depth. If they can continue to grow as a league (and carry on picking up these vital matchups against top tier teams), they will remain a team to watch.

Dollinquents (Capital City) 97 vs. D-VAS 210

Battering Ma'am comes face to face with Traffic Kisser. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Battering Ma’am comes face to face with Traffic Kisser. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The night kicked off with a 2014 Fresh and the Furious semi-final rematch between Capital City and ToRD’s D-VAS (won by Capital City, though both rosters were significantly different). Inspired by revenge, the D-VAS burst out after the opening whistle, with all four jammers in their rotation (Wheels of Misfortune, Battering Ma’am, Murdercat!, and Vag Lightning) picking up lead status and spotting the team a 29-0 lead early.

The D-VAS mostly dominated during five-on-five situations, but ran into considerable penalty trouble in the first half, spotting Capital City a power jam whenever it seemed as if the home team were about to pull away. This kept things close, with the D-VAS leading 93-45 at half.

Capital City was lead by a core of strong players who were capable (and successful) at playing multiple positions on the track. RebelLion was dominant at times, particularly in the pack in the opening half, while Traffic Kisser took over in the second. Both were viable double threats throughout the game. Ruby Wreckage was also key with the star for the visitors, jamming nearly every second jam at the start of the game before getting some relief later.

D-VAS' Kimikaze leads the defense. (Photo by Joe Mac)

D-VAS’ Kimikaze leads the defense. (Photo by Joe Mac)

In the second half, the D-VAS cleaned up their act and kept the jammer penalties to a minimum, allowing them to pull away. Captain April Cruel was once again strong for the hosts (and took over some jamming in the second too as Vag Lightning and Wheels of Misfortune shifted into some more pack work). Slamureye was a strong pivot all night for Toronto, while Juggernaut J was her usual steady self and Kimikaze continues to emerge as a prospect worth watching.

Outscoring the opposition 117-52 in the second gave the ToRD future stars some padding and they skated away with a 113-point win.

The D-VAS have one more game to impress before the 2015 ToRD house league entry draft, and you can see them at home, facing off against South Simcoe on September 27th (to kick off the ToRD semifinal showdown between Chicks Ahoy! and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls).

From Muddy Rivers to Foggy Cities, Flat Track Roller Derby is Thriving on the East Coast

             VS.         

Women’s flat track roller derby is the fastest growing sport on the planet, and with over 90 leagues, Canada is at the forefront of this growth. Beginning in major centres in southern Ontario, Montreal, Edmonton and Vancouver, the sport has spread to every corner of Canada’s vast expanse. The latest front line of Canada’s roller derby revolution is on the east coast where once again major cities are leading the way. The Atlantic capitals of St. John’s, Halifax, Charlottetown and Fredericton all have established leagues, with Moncton, St. John and Dieppe rounding out the surprising growth of New Brunswick’s scene. On Saturday, August 20, Moncton’s Muddy River Rollers hosted Saint. John’s Fog City Rollers in a double header featuring the hometeams from the two cities in a brilliant display of the thriving east coast game.

Reines of Terror (in blue) kicked things off against the Scarlet Swarm. (Photography by Andy Quinlan: http://www.quinlanphotographic.com)

GAME ONE: Scarlet Swarm (FCR) 21 vs. Reines of Terror (MRR) 113

It was a steamy night in Moncton and the heat enveloped the venue, Kay Arena—an attractive new arena in the city’s east end.  While Muddy River may be a comparative newcomer to the flat track community, walking into the venue pre bout was like walking into a roller derby venue anywhere across the country. The east coast explosion has mirrored other newer movements across the country in that the growth rate (both on and off the track) has been phenomenal. “It is amazing how far ahead we are now from where we were just a year ago,” says Reines of Terror assistant captain Brandy Swifter, “and the JAMboree was one of the main reasons for that…we learned things we didn’t even know about!”  In mid July, Muddy River hosted the first ever Atlantic JAMboree, a weekend long tournament featuring the east coast teams joined by Ottawa’s newest league, the Capital City Derby Dolls). “We had some top notch coaches (Like Canuck Derby TV’s Dr. Johnny Capote, Montreal’s Georgia W. Tush, and Oil City’s Coach Lime) come out and help us out with things and teach us things that we had no idea about. All the leagues recognized this and are now putting it into play on the track.”

These kinds of share-all events have become a staple in the development of flat track roller derby, and typify the inclusive and sharing nature of the community. It is an aspect of the sport that has been embraced in the east.  “The best part (of east coast roller derby) is we’re close enough to travel easily,” points out Bambi Romano, coach of Fog City’s Scarlet Swarm. “Everyone’s (sharing) knowledge and helping each other out, and this has caught us up to everyone really quickly.” He also acknowledges the work that Tush and Dr. Johnny have done for roller derby in the province. And like all new leagues, Fog City has embraced losing: “You don’t mind losing against someone who is teaching you,” Bambi says. “If you coach against someone who is better than you are, it’s going to make you better.”

ROT assistant captain had a strong bout jamming and in the pack.

While the larger story of Atlantic Canadian roller derby has much left to be written, in these early chapters Muddy River has emerged as the competitive leader on the track (the travel team, the Lumbersmacks, recently put in a competitive showing at the CWRDA Eastern Canadian Championship). In the first bout of the double header, ROT (Reines of Terror) looked to solidify the growing reputation of the league. They kicked things off with an impressive one-two jammer punch from their captains Brandy Swifter and Burn ‘N RubHer that the Scarlet Swarm didn’t seem to have an answer for.  An early ROT power jam (after a back block major from the Swarm’s excellent Lee-Animator) saw Burn ‘N RubHer lay down 14 points and helped ROT off to an explosive 17-0 lead only four minutes in. ROT continued that dominance with five straight lead jams to kick off the bout before Swarm’s Fancy Nancy was able to grab a lead and put a few points on the board.  Nancy and Lee-Animator continued their excellent jamming throughout the half, but it was the pack work of ROT (led by, among others, Smasherella who has great track sense—from giving timely pushes to holding position when necessary) that was the clear difference.  A brilliantly paced power kill late in the half further frustrated the Swarm and helped ROT take a 41-10 lead into the break.

ROT produced some solid walls; a product of great pack communication.

Coach Bambi was aware of the strengths of ROT. “They are a smart team,” he acknowledges, “and they communicate very well on the track.” This communication was evident in the second half as ROT began to tighten up their pack play and stepped up their game.  Strong pack work from Thora Thunder and Malicious Kitty (who also donned the star) and great defensive teamwork from a line featuring Brandy Swifter, Floor Play, Tank’er Belle and Jamanda Maulograms (who also executed a relentless trap on a late power jam) allowed ROT to increase their lead in the second half. Despite the one-sided victory, Brandy Swifter was impressed with her opponents. “They (Fog City) have come such a long way; it was a good game,” she said post bout. Scarlet Swarn captain Suzie SkinHer was also happy with the way her team played, remembering how challenging Muddy River had been early on. “For every strategy we had, they had a counter strategy,” she said, “but we’ve come a long way since our first game of the season against them.” Coach Bambi also says that the “rogue” play his team was known for is slowing changing. “We’ve started to talk strategy a lot more in practice. We pulled them back and worked more on team play.” Like all new flat track teams that have come before them, they’ve learned that “going rogue all the time doesn’t necessarily help you.” A wise analysis moving forward.

GAME TWO: Daughters of Anarchy (MRR) 40 vs. Razor Girls (FCR) 73

While there was an appreciative crowd in the building and a loud travelling contingent from Fog City, it was clear that this was an audience still being educated about the sport, and the crowds in the east have not yet reached the consistent sell-outs seen in more established centres like Toronto and Montreal. Brandy Swifter acknowledges that Muddy River is still battling stereotypes and stigmas about roller roller derby in the community. “It’s tough…we have to find our niche,” she says, and spoke about a lot of the misinformed opinions they are hearing about roller derby   “Everyone we talk to still thinks that (it is like the over-the-top sports entertainment of banked track in the late 70s and 80s)…it’s all Skinny Minnie Miller comments.” But those who have discovered it, like it a lot.  “I think it’s really good for the young girls,” Coach Bambi says of the reception they’ve been getting in Saint. John and the importance of battling through these stereotypes. “I think it’s good for the women in these communities to come out and watch these girls really own a sport.”

Muddy River's Burn 'N RubHer was one of a few skaters who skated in both bouts.

It was clear from the early going that the second bout of the night was not going to be as one-sided as the first. Despite the fact that both teams were tracking depleted eleven-skater rosters (Muddy River’s DOA [Daughters of Anarchy] even had to borrow almost half their skaters from ROT), the bout kicked off at a high pace, featuring some great early jammer battles between DOA’s Sienna Killer and DeceptiCat and Razor Girls’ Katie Clubher and H-Two Oh No! But when Razor’s Tacky Tammy took the third straight lead for the Fog City and DOA jammer Ms. Hate found herself heading to the penalty box, it was clear that the Fog City team was beginning to take control of the game. But one of the double-duty skaters Burn ‘N RubHer performed brilliantly one-on-one against the Razor’s jammer Nessa Quik to help alleviate some of the pressure and keep the game from getting out of control. The bout was still wide open, 39-17 (Razor Girls) at the half.

Post bout, Burn ‘N admitted that some of the double-rostered Muddy River skaters were feeling the heat in the second game, but the biggest challenge they faced came in the form of an awesome opposing skater: Razor Girls’ triple threat Auburn Rubber (Fog City leaguemate Suzie SkinHer refered to her as the “brains on the track”). Auburn perhaps had the performance of the night and was able to successfully neutralize many of DOA’s skaters one-on-one. With the score still close—58-31 with only eight minutes left—and DOA pressing, a skillfully executed “Sanchez” (block and whip) by Auburn helped get a trapped Razor jammer through the pack and force an early jam call from Ms. Hate that killed some of DOA’s momentum. Pivot/jammer H-Two Oh No! continued her strong play as well, and aided by solid games from Alien She, Katie Clubher and reliable late-bout jamming from Lexxie Lasher, the Razor Girls were able to hold on for the impressive 33 point victory, a taste of revenge for the team who’d lost to DOA at the JAMboree. More importantly, this marked the first ever victory for a Fog City team over one of their Muddy River counterparts.

Razor Girls' Katie Clubher splits the defense on a pass late in the bout.

But in the bigger picture, wins and losses at this stage of the game mean very little. For these thriving east coast leagues it’s all about experience. “Sometimes we run into hiccups at practice and can’t quite figure out strategies,” Brandy Swifter says about some of Muddy River’s early derby growing pains, ”but then when we get on the track it just happens,” she laughs, but this highlights the invaluable (and incalculable) importance of experience in developing track sense. While this comes from playing, it also comes from watching as well. Fog City’s Suzie SkinHer says going to Montreal’s Beast of the East this season was very important for Fog City’s growth as a league. “It was a real eye opener,” she says of the level of play at the annual Montreal event, “like watching derby royalty!”

“The sky is the limit,” Bambi Romano says of Fog City’s aspirations in particular, but which could describe east coast roller derby in general. And based on the on-track success of this event on a balmy night in a Moncton arena, a truer description could not have been spoken.

**Muddy River’s next bout will see the Daughters of Anarchy hosting the Capital City Rollers’ Daisy Cutters (Fredericton) on Saturday, August 27. See the website for details.

**Fog City Rollers will be hosting an open house on Saturday, August 27. See website for details.