With fourteen teams in this year’s Fresh and Furious: GTA Drift (too awkward a number for a double elimination tournament), a point-differential ranking system was put into place to determine second-round seedings, meaning that teams could not take their foot of the gas in their opening games, resulting in a few lopsided results early.
Track One: Ted Reeve Arena
The first bracket was loaded with the top leagues in the tournament, but the opening round didn’t necessarily shake out as expected. The up-and-coming Renegade Derby Dames out of Aliston Ontario, kicked things off with a minor 69-46 upset over a Royal City team that was certainly considered one of the pre-tournament favourites. Similarly, ToRD’s D-VAS who were one of a few teams with shortened benches (11) to ensure that skaters fit under the maximum game requirements, looked out of sorts in an opening 28-18 loss to the Border City Brawlers in a defensive grinder. Two teams that looked impressive were Montreal’s Smash Squad (in their first Fresh tournament) who overwhelmed a Woodstock Warriors team making their debut by 117 points (impressive given the 20 minute games), and the Violet Femmes, a contact extension of London’s LOCO derby league, who were surprisingly physical in their 76-29 upset over the South Simcoe Roller Rebels.
Track Two: The Bubble
The host GTA Derby Debutantes showed confidence with what were previously considered advanced strategies when they scrum-started the opening jam and most thereafter (a trend in the tournament); although never able to pull too far ahead, the Debutantes seemed to be cruising against Capital City’s Delinquents (whose roster was aided by a few skaters from Kingston’s Limestone CrusHers), before a last-jam shocker saw them pull out a 34-32 win and remind everyone that in 20-minute games, all it takes is a single jam to change the complexion of the game. In another tight one, Buffalo’s Queen City (an honorary eastern Canadian league for their years of cross-border support), were involved in another tight one, falling by three points to defending champion Gold Miner’s Daughters. In the only blow out in The Bubble, Durham Region smacked around a scrappy Lindsay team (making their playing debut) by 44 points to pick up the third seed for the second round, missing out on the quarterfinal bye by only three points.
On the strength of their overwhelming victories, Montreal and the Violet Femmes nabbed a bye to the quarterfinals, while the remaining teams were forced to play in a single-elimination knockout round with rankings based on their first round-scores. In this round the contenders certainly distanced themselves from the rest of the competition. In the most surprising outcome of the round, Border City turned some heads with the biggest offensive output of the tournament when they trounced Lindsay 136-28, suddenly positing themselves as potential favourites. The Renegade Derby Dames continued to impress as well, cruising into the quarterfinals with a 70-point victory over South Simcoe. Both Toronto teams, the Debutantes and the D-VAS, also made up for opening round losses, as the ToRD team found its game after an awkward opener and looked like a much tighter team in a 59 point win over Capital City. GTA assured the continuation of their tournament as the Debutantes eliminated Queen City in a one-sided 73-point win. Another team that came alive after an opening round loss was Royal City, who shook off the loss and picked up a load of confidence by eliminating the defending champion Gold Miner’s Daughters (who even had returning players) 78-26. Durham didn’t look quite as sharp in their second game, but did enough to continue by eliminating a Woodstock team that recovered quite nicely from the blowout against Montreal to put up a strong fight, losing 43-17.
When the elimination rounds had all shaken out, the final eight did not look too far from what the expectations had been going in. Traditionally strong Queen City was out (the only of the three participating WFTDA league’s not to advance), joining the defending champs from Timmins on the sidelines. One of the surprises of the tournament, the Violet Femmes, ran into a solid wall against a D-VAS team that was getting better by the jam and who reasserted their presence in the tournament with a defensively dominant 84-6 victory (the only time in the tournament that a team was held to single digits). Nonetheless, this intriguing contact representative of a low-contact league, certainly made an impression. Similar to the D-VAS, Royal City had started slow but was picking up steam and looked very comfortable in a 63-39 victory to knock Durham Region out of the quarterfinals (it was a solid tournament for the Durham newcomers; much needed after a string of losses by the senior teams in the league this season).
After winning a frighteningly one-sided opener, Montreal was brought back to Earth when the host Debutantes gave them all that they could handle. Despite the incredible effort from the GTA skaters, they weren’t able to contend in the end, falling 55-28. In the most intriguing quarterfinal matchup, the debut league Renegade Derby Dames fought tooth and nail with Windsor’s Border City Brawlers who proved to be contenders in only their second year in action as they were able to snatch the last-jam victory 32-29, in the tightest of the quarterfinal bouts. Nonetheless, both teams secured their reputations for the weekend, with strong performances all around and have announced themselves as leagues to watch.
Montreal, Toronto and Guelph’s Royal City all lived up to pre-tournament expectations by qualifying for the final four, joining the upstart Border City from Windsor. In the first of the two showdowns, Montreal once again showed chinks in a very impressive armour. Border City continued to win over fans with their astonishing play. The Windsor team opened on a power jam to take the lead and stayed within four points until near the halfway point, but once again the Smash Squad looked unfazed and outscored Windsor 33-4 over the final five minutes to pull out the 64-35 victory. Despite the early scare, when it was all said and done, Montreal was right where the team was expected to be: in the championship final.
Another fascinating chapter in the slowly blossoming rivalry between Guelph’s Royal City and Toronto Roller Derby played out in the other semifinal between the Top Herloins and the D-VAS. Both teams were quickly improving all day; with every minute of track time, the teams seemed to refine their strategies and get just a bit smarter in transition, and it showed in this thrilling semifinal. The D-VAS managed to stay just one step ahead through the first half of the bout, with Royal City taking their first lead, 21-20, at the twelve-minute mark. Four minutes later a crucial power jam saw them take their biggest lead of the game, 39-27, with only three minutes remaining. A nine point pickup by the D-VAS had them right back in it, down by three entering the final jam. Unable to hold the opposing jammer despite getting lead, the D-VAS’ jammer attempted a hit-it-and-quit-it call off, but was ruled to be slightly early in her call and only picked up one, sending Royal City to the final with a thrilling 39-37 victory.
Still fired up from the tight semifinal loss and looking to avenge a surprising loss in the opening game of the tournament, Toronto’s D-VAS stormed out of the gates in their third-place bout against Windsor’s Border City. Showing a confidence and awareness that had grown throughout the day, the D-VAS dominated from the start and amassed a 49-7 lead at the halfway mark. Despite playing a defensive grinder (28-18) earlier in the day, this one was all offense all the time and the D-VAS picked it up in the second half of the game, capturing third place in a lopsided 117-13 victory over a nonetheless impressive Border City team.
Royal City had followed a similar arc in the tournament as the D-VAS, starting slow and peaking when it mattered most. They seemed very unintimidated to be squaring off against a league so much more experienced than itself, and caught Montreal off guard over the first few jams to take a 21-6 lead. Montreal slowly tightened things up and began to chip away, going on a 19 point run to take their first lead, 25-21, eight minutes into the thirty minute final. Royal City would not relent though, and manged to retake the lead, 47-38 at the halfway mark of the final. Up 50-42 at the 13 minute mark, Montreal picked up a crucial power jam in what would prove to be the turning point in the game and retook the lead. Over the next six minutes, Guelph’s defense would slowly come apart as Montreal’s relentless game play saw them complete a six minute, thirty-seven point run to take a commanding 79-50 lead. That dominance would continue over the final six minutes as well, showing excellent endurance (mental and physical) to take their first Fresh and the Furious trophy with a decisive 122-61 victory. A reminder that Montreal Roller Derby is still very much the league that the rest of Canada is looking up to.
***The recap continues tomorrow with an overview of the tournament and an interview with key players.
|TRACK ONE: TED REEVE ARENA||TRACK TWO: THE BUBBLE|
|First Round||First Round|
|Renegade Derby Dames 69 vs. Royal City Roller Girls (Top Herloins) 46South Simcoe Rebel Rollers 29 vs. Violet Femmes (London LOCO) 76
Border City Brawlers 28 vs. Toronto Roller Derby
Montreal Roller Derby (Smash Squad) 127 vs. Woodstock Roller Derby (Warriors) 10
|Lindsey Roller Derby 35 vs. Derby Region Roller Derby 79Capital City Derby Dolls (Delinquents) 34 vs. GTA Rollergirls (Derby Debutantes) 32
Queen City Roller Girls (Rollin Royals) 33 vs. Goldminer’s Daughters 36
|Elimination Round||Elimination Round|
|(9) Queen City 17 vs. (8) Debutantes 85(4) Renegade DD 82 vs. (13) South Simcoe 12
(12) Lindsay 28 vs. (5) Border City 136
|(10) D-VAS 69 vs. (7) Capital City 10(3) Durham 42 vs. (14) Woodstock 17
(11) Royal City 78 vs. (6) GMs’ Daughters 26
|Smash Squad 55 vs. Debutantes 28Renegade DD 29 vs. Border City 32
|Violet Femmes 6 vs. D-VAS 84Durham 39 vs. Royal City 63|
Smash Squad 64 vs. Border City 35
D-VAS 37 vs. Royal City 39
Border City 13 vs. D-VAS 117
Smash Squad 122 vs. Royal City 61