Dawson

Steady Dolls Hold off Relentless Gores to Retain ToRD Title

The Dolls defended the Boot in a tight, scrappy bout against the Gores, while the Betties closed out a challenging season with a big win over the Renegade Derby Dames’ Striking Vikings.

The Dolls joined the Gores (2009-10) and the Chicks (2011-2012) as back-to-back ToRD champs. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The Dolls joined the Gores (2009-10) and the Chicks (2011-2012) as back-to-back ToRD champs. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

There was an old-school vibe at the Bunker on Saturday night: a lively crowd, active mascots, and rising beeramids lined the track, while tutus and face-paint made their way back onto it, but the game itself was new-school flat track roller derby at its frenetic best. It was one of those fine balances unique to the sport; a dichotomy that only roller derby at its best is able to pull off. Fueled by this richness of narrative, the dueling opponents  rose up to meet expectations and delivered. When the smoke cleared and the dust settled, it was the Death Track Dolls who survived the duel, able to hold off the three-time champion Gore-Gore Rollergirls 184-139 to take home their second straight Toronto Roller Derby championship.

The defending champion Dolls came in focused and unified. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The defending champion Dolls came in focused and unified. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Coming off of a record-setting season capped by a record-setting Battle for the Boot mauling against the Betties in 2013, the defending-champion Dolls, rebuilt and not as fine-tuned or weapon-stacked as they were last year, relied on a different sort of chemistry to make it work in 2014. It was a challenge that could have understandably felled a lot of teams, but the combination of trust and positivity that fueled the 2014 Dolls was evident from the opening whistle of the 2014 Battle for the Boot.

Not to discredit the Gores, who themselves were dealing with a largely rebuilt roster and had to find a way to fuse multiple-generations of skaters into a cohesive unit. They succeeded, and rebounded in 2014 from their worst season ever in 2013 to return to their seventh championship game and, of course, in April became the first team from Toronto to win Montreal’s Beast of the East. And despite a near 100-point loss to them earlier this season, in this game they gave the Dolls all that they could handle.

Dolls' jammer Bellefast and Gores' Lexi Con were both excellent for their teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Dolls’ jammer Bellefast and Gores’ Lexi Con were both excellent for their teams. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The league’s leading scorer Bellefast got things started on the jam line for the Dolls, and it was clockwork for the defending champs as they lept out to a quick 4-0 lead. But the Gores roared back showing some offensive savvy in ringing off five straight lead jammer statuses (and seven of the first ten), but could manage only 9 points on the run to hold a slim 9-4 lead, a testament to the Dolls’ stifling defense and quick offense-defense transitions to free jammers and make sure any damage was limited. Early on the Gores were able to contain Dolls’ first-year jammers Devochka and Sleeper Hold, but had virtually no answer for veteran Bellefast.

Belle managed the third highest regular season lead percentage in ToRD history this year (77%) and kept the Dolls in the championship game early on as they got their offensive blocking going. She scored the first 25 points for the Dolls and had 67 at half on a 78% lead percentage in a dominating performance¹. While Devochka eventually managed to start putting up points midway through the first, it would take Sleeper seven jams to pick up lead and get on the board. Once the pack settled in though, all three jammers eventually got going (for example, Sleeper put up 16 points in the second half on 60% lead percentage, while Devo would finish the game with 49 points on 53%).

Gores' Chronic and Kandy Barr hold back Dolls' jammer Devochka. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

Gores’ Chronic and Kandy Barr hold back Dolls’ jammer Devochka. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

The game was incredibly tight early on, with the Dolls slipping ahead 33-25 at the midway point in the first period, and the game’s true highlight was the duel going on the pack. Skater for skater, the Gores arguably had the deeper pack, led by veterans Santa Muerte, Chronic, Gamma Rei, Emma Dilemma and the retiring league founder Kandy Barr, and the Gores did win many one-on-one battles, but as the game went on the Dolls’ walls tightened and what the team lacked in individual brilliance, they made up for in collective unity.

Mirroring the Gores’ opening run, the Dolls steered the game into half picking up eight of the final ten lead jammers and building the game’s largest lead—30 points—up 95-65 at the break.

It wasn’t that the Gores’ jammers weren’t having strong games: they were; it was just that they so rarely had an opportunity to make a pass without a Dolls jammer hot on their tails. Both Lexi Con and Lumberjack Flash finished the game with impressive lead percentages, 71% and 60% respectively, and Beaver Mansbridge made the most of her leads putting up 25 points on a 38% lead percentage (Taranosaurus Rex would have a similar high points-per-lead ratio, managing 18 points on only a 20%).

Dawson and Wheatabitch wrap up Gores' jammer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

Dolls’ blockers Dawson and Wheatabitch wrap up Gores’ jammer Beaver Mansbridge. (Photo be Neil Gunner)

While the Dolls played with a hive-mind sensibility, they were anchored by strong performances from their key skaters and veterans. After a number of retirements and CN Power call ups last season there was a big on-track leadership void in the pack and long-time Doll Dawson stepped up in a big way this season, and was at her best in the championship game, anchoring a line alongside veteran co-captain Getcha Kicks and retiring long-time Doll Audrey Hellborn (who joined the jammer rotation late in the game and picked up, fittingly, the final lead of the half to close out the win).

Meanwhile the same sort of pressure was heaped on second-year skaters Android W.K. and Robotmy who were tasked with anchoring the other half of the pack and did well to live up to the challenge, aided in part by the presence of and ever-improving Hannibelle and another long-time Doll Slam Wow. Finally, yet another retiring league founder, Demolition Dawn, provided the foundational and emotional stability that was key to this team’s year-long success. And the Dolls needed this veteran poise in the second half as the Gores poured on wave after wave of energetic pushbacks, managing to get as close as 19 points after a 20-point Lexi Con jammed power jam midway through the half (Lexi managed to pick up lead on her first six jams of the second half in a fantastic, clutch performance).

A veteran Gores line of Emma Dilemma, Kandy Barr, Chronic and Santa Muerte talk with their bench during a time out. (photo by Greg Russell)

A veteran Gores line of Emma Dilemma, Kandy Barr, Chronic and Santa Muerte talk with their bench during a time out. (photo by Greg Russell)

The Gores too have a solid young core to build around. Full Deck is emerging as a strong pivot and potential triple-threat, while both Moose Knuckles and Viktory Lapp saved their best for the when it mattered most this season, showing that they can be called upon in big-game situations. There is a ton of depth on the Gores roster as well, from veterans Miss Kitty La Peur and Purple Pain to newcomers like Machu Beatchu and Guardian Paingel (who were both absent with injury).

Prior to the game, sixteen retiring skaters were singled out for their contributions to the league. It was a humbling list including many first-generation ToRD skaters including Betty Bomber, Candy Crossbones, Demolition Dawn, Dusty, Dyna Hurtcha, Hoff, Kandy Barr, and Rebel Rock-It. It leaves a gaping absence in the centre of the organization, but it is one that the league has the infrastructure to fill. As a whole, the league should take notice of the Dolls model of smart drafting: This year’s pick ups in Stringer Belle, Wheatabitch and Free Range Clam were model skaters for the Dolls, making up for any lack of experience by buying into the team model and playing within the established system.

They were integral pieces in the Dolls’ complete-game performance in the final, and the team went toe-to-toe with their opponents during the Gores’ final desperate push where they had the offense going but couldn’t fully shut down the Dolls in a 25-11 run over the final four jams. The Dolls remained focused and held on for the 45-point victory.

Despite the retirements and the feeling of finality to this championship game, ToRD as a whole has a chance to do the same sort of on-the-fly rebuild that the Dolls did, only on a larger scale. With a deep house league entry draft loaded with both homegrown and transfer talent coming up, and an internal development system strongly in place in place from fresh meat all the way up to CN Power, this entertaining and successful eighth championship game should be looked at as much as an augur of a successful future as it was a celebration of a strong history.

"The Boot" Photo by Neil Gunner (neilgunner.com)

The Betties led 135-55 at half in their win over the Striking Vikings. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Betties led 135-55 at half in their win over the Striking Vikings. (Photo by Greg Russell)

***In the opener, the Smoke City Betties picked up a much-needed win over the Renegade Derby Dames’ travel team, the Striking Vikings, 237-167. After climbing all the way to the 2013 Battle for the Boot, the Betties stumbled this season, finishing last in ToRD and missing the playoffs. They played, arguably, their most complete game on the season on Saturday and beat a tough opponent that featured some talented skaters.

***The 2014 Battle for the Boot will be rebroadcast intermittently on Rogers TV beginning next Saturday. Check listings for air times and dates. Visit layer9.ca for track side video coverage.

¹These stats are all unofficial and will be updated for accuracy if necessary.

Dolls and Betties meet in 2013 Champs Rematch

The Death Track Dolls have won five in a row against the Smoke City Betties dating back to 2009.

The Betties and Dolls face off in a 2008 regular season match up. The Dolls won 89-73. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Betties and Dolls face off in a 2008 regular season game. The Dolls won 89-73. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The last time the Dolls and the Betties met was in the 2013 Battle for the Boot, a one-sided championship battle that saw the Dolls romp 258-73 in the record-setting win. In recent history, the Dolls dominating the Betties is not a surprise, and all-time the Dolls have a 5-2 regular season advantage and a 1-0 playoff advantage (last year’s championship game was the first time the two teams had met in the playoffs).

But the Betties’ road to the 2014 season has been a long, winding one (the story of the Betties is one of the most compelling—and important—in Canadian roller derby, actually). From 2007-2009, the Betties won two of three meetings against the Dolls (including a 9-point victory in 2007) until the massive roster overhaul before 2010 set the Betties on a years-long rebuild that saw the Dolls go on a 5-0 run since that time.

Since 2009, the Dolls have been on a slow build, improving every year (with a slight, arguable slip in 2012) and culminating in last year’s championship win. Last year, the Dolls dominated every aspect of the league, cruising to a record-setting regular season and a one-sided championship win. In the off season, the Dolls went through a massive roster overhaul that many thought would cause them to start a 2009-Betties’ style rebuild, but early indications show that has yet to happen.

THE STORY SO FAR

Smoke City Betties

In their season opener, Betties blocker Babushkill duels with Rosemary's Rabies to open a lane for jammer WackedHer. (Photo by Greg Russell)

In their season opener, Betties blocker Babushkill duels with Rosemary’s Rabies to open a lane for jammer WackedHer. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Each team has played one regular season game so far in 2014. The Betties fell in a shocker to a resurgent Chicks Ahoy! team in a tight 159-139 game that the Chicks dominated early, before the Betties rally came up just short. It was a thrilling game that came down to one controversial jammer penalty in the closing moments of the game.

The Betties have slowly built up a deep, balanced roster. Led by the hard-hitting duo of Misery Mae and Tushy Galore, the brawn runs deep with Mouth of the South, Mazel Tough, and Laya Beaton supplying frightening support. But the pack is also made up of a slew of more positionally inclined blockers like Honey Boom Boom, LowBlowPalooza, Babushkill, and Kill’Her At Large.

Offensively, the Betties were led by rookie jammer WackerHer, who led the team with 46 points and put up a line of 46 points, 3.8 points per jam and a 42% lead percentage. Co-captain Wolverina was also a huge presence for the team, notching 45 points (on 4.5 PPJ) with a 70% lead percentage (currently third in the league). Double threat SewWhat also supplied important offense (32, 2.9, 55%). Veteran jammer titmouse (16, 1.4, 55%) rounds out the rotation, and the Betties will need a bounce back game from her if they hope to push the Dolls (she had a high lead percentage, but couldn’t translate that into points).

Death Track Dolls

The Dolls' Dawson and Audrey Hellborn attempt to close the door on Lumberjack Flash during the Dolls' season opening victory. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls’ Dawson and Audrey Hellborn attempt to close the door on Lumberjack Flash during the Dolls’ season opening victory over the Gores. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The Dolls kicked off 2014 the same way they ended their 2013 record-setting season: in dollminating fashion. There were a lot of questions surrounding the champs as off-season retirements and call-ups to CN Power left the team scrambling to rebuild, but the championship culture developed over last year is paying off. Their season-opening 172-79 victory over the Gore-Gore Rollergirls sent a clear message while defying expectations

The pack is built around a core of veterans, but relies on new skaters as well. In the season opener, there was a great balance between the lines with one set led by second-year captain Android W.K. and returning veteran Just Jes, and the other led by a trio of Dawson, Audrey Hellborn and Canadian Psycho. Word on the track is that veteran Doll Speedin’ Hawking will make her season debut this weekend, adding more experience to the lineup. But the next generation of Baby Dolls is stepping up in the pack as well, with second-year skaters Robotomy and former Rollergette and current Los Conos (Hamilton) skater Stringer Belle leading the way.

Getcha Kicks had a strong game with the star in the season opener putting up 72 points on 5.1 points per jam behind a 71% lead percentage (tied for tops on the league) but look for the Dolls co-captain to take some time in the pack this game with second-year jammer Chicken Sluggets entering the roster. That leaves Bellefast to lead a young offense. She’s currently tied for the league lead in lead percentage (71%) and scored 35 points against the Gores.

The Dolls also got strong performances from ToRD rookies as well, with Durham Region transfer Devochka having a strong first half (24 PTS, 1.8 PPJ, 15% LP), and former Loco skater Sleeper Hold getting stronger as the game went on, on the way to putting up an offense line of 17, 1.3, and 39%.

D-VAS vs. DRRDy FarmersDolls vs. Betties 2014

Concluding the double header on Saturday night, will be a game featuring the future stars of both ToRD and nearby Durham Region Roller Derby as the D-VAS and DRRDy Farmers meet up. Both teams are made up of skaters who will eventually be eligible for their respective house league drafts at the end of the season.

The D-VAS opened up the season with a 338-173 loss in an offense-heavy game against the Woodstock Warriors. This will be the first game of the season for the DRRDy Farmers.

***Doors at the Bunker open at 4:00 PM. Opening whistle for the Dolls and Betties is 5:00 PM, with the D-VAS vs. DRRDy Farmers game set to kick off at 7:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at a number of vendors in the city.

 

 

Roller Skatin Banner