Nickel City Knockouts

Gores wreak vengeance on Betties in ToRD semifinal

The Gores were looking for revenge against the Betties after a regular season loss. (Photography by Greg Russell)

Smoke City Betties 86 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 166.

Some teams just know how to win. They’ve done it so long, the know what it takes, and they know how to bring it when the situation calls for something a little extra special. After this weekend’s dominant performance, there can be no question left about what kind of team the Gore-Gore Rollergirls are. Coming off of their worst ToRD regular season ever (they’d finished atop the standings after all five of the previous regular seasons) and having sustained their largest ever defeat (a 142-point loss to this same Smoke City Betties team), it seemed that the streak of appearing in every championship game in ToRD’s history was in jeopardy. But with an offense led by ToRD’s all-time leading scorer, Bambi (returning from injury), and a pack of fiercely determined blockers clearing the path, the Gores led from start to finish in the semifinal showdown with the Betties and looked like a team renewed as they booked their ticket to the 2012 Battle for the Boot and set up a showdown with their long-time rivals, the defending champion Chicks Ahoy!

Bambi’s performance was not affected by her absence due to injury.

Facing adversity all season and feeling the strain of injuries and mid-season retirements, the Gores limped into the post season (actually only qualifying after a very close plus/minus tiebreaker with the Dolls). With an offence run by committee, the Gores could not get any momentum in their season closer. With Bambi returning from the first major injury layoff of her career, the Gores offense got going early. A 3-0 jam by co-captain and regular pivot Lady Gagya got things started, but on the second jam disaster struck for the Betties. With Bambi skating her first jam since May, the Gores were rewarded with a power jam and the Betties paid dearly. A remarkable 34 points later, and the Betties found themselves floundering in a 37-0 deficit only three minutes in.

Despite strong individual efforts from the likes of Renny Rumble and Platinum Bomb, the Betties couldn’t sustain momentum.

That power jam would prove to be the difference maker in the first half: at the halfway point, the lead remained similar, 54-11. Early penalty woes both in the pack and with their jammers had the Betties scrambling in a way that they hadn’t done all season. Indeed, this was truly the first setback in what has been a banner season for the skaters in black and blue. After two years of rebuilding, it seemed that this was finally the year the Betties would claw their way back to the top. After promising performances against the Death Track Dolls and the Chicks Ahoy! and culminating in their lopsided victory over the Gores (not to mention a quarterfinal appearance at the Beast of the East) it had been a season of steady progression. Led by a core of skaters having breakout seasons (the finally healthy titmouse and rookie Slaptrick Swayze jamming; Sin D Drop-her and Platinum Bomb in the pack), the Betties seemed poised to make their first appearance in the championship since 2009. Down 86-40 at the half, the Betties were certainly still within reach, but the Gores seemed to be gaining confidence by the jam.

Once again the Gores found offense from many different sources, including Santa Muerta, while the Betties stuck to a tighter rotation that included BruiseBerry Pie.

The Gores received standout performances from some usual suspects. With jammer corps depleted, it was Lady Gagya, Santa Muerte , Chronic and Kandy Barr who did double duty to support Bambi (D-VAS call up Getcha Kicks also got her skates wet in her first ever on-track action in ToRD). While Lady Gagya’s phenomenal footwork makes her a natural fit to jam, Santa Muerte’s tireless determination helped her have her best ever game with the star. But since the Betties had a jammer core at least equal to the Gores on this night, the difference was in the pack; and where they Betties had been tight and consistent during the regular season, they were stretched and penalty prone in this one.  Chronic had another fantastic bout in the pack, and Foxy Sinatra added another top-notch bout to what has been, arguably, the best season of the long-time veteran’s career. It was this relentless attack and punishing defence that allowed the Gores to increase their stranglehold to 123-53 at the halfway mark of the second half.

Renny Rumble continued her breakout rookie season.

But despite the loss, the Betties had standouts as well. titmouse capped  a remarkable season with another consistent performance with the star, while BruiseBerry Pie continues to develop into one of the true superstars of the league (and had the possible highlight of the night late in the game on an apex-jumping steal of four points). Rookie of the year candidate Renny Rumble had another strong performance as well showing extraordinary track sense and impeccable one-on-one positional blocking. Renny diversified her game tonight as well, entering the jammer rotation (a position she has experience playing, though not for the Betties). Regardless of the strong individual performances, they seemed overwhelmed on this stage (falling behind by 100 points at one point late in the half) and were never able to claw their way back in the 166-86 loss.

The Dolls had a strong finish to what was a somewhat disappointing season.

***In the first half of the double header, The Death Track Dolls closed out what by all accounts was a disappointing season with a massive 282-102 victory over the shorthanded Queen City champions the Nickel City Knockouts (out of Buffalo). It was an emotional game for the last-place Dolls, who will see the retirement or loss of some key skaters in the off season including long-time Doll Lucid Lou and the last original Doll, Jubilee. They cruised from start to finish, leading by whopping 163-18 at half on the back of some super-strong defence and steady jamming. It was an inspiring victory for the team, a big confidence builder heading into the off season.

*** The Battle for the Boot 6 (Toronto Roller Derby’s 2012 championship game) will go on September 22nd. Three-time champs The Gore-Gore Rollergirls with try to unseat the defending champion  Chicks Ahoy!. Tickets are available online in select retail locations.

Gores and Betties Continue Playoff Rivalry in ToRD Semifinal

The Gores and Betties’ first playoff meeting was in the 2008 semifinals (won by the Gores 106-70). (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls and Smoke City Betties have an interesting history. The Betties are one of the oldest teams not only in Toronto, but in Canadian roller derby in general. The hosts of the first ever Canadian interleague tournament (Betties D-Day in August 2006), the Betties literally spawned the Gore-Gore Rollergirls:  On the eve of Toronto Roller Derby’s inaugural 2007 season, the Betties split into two, forming the Gores. Although the two sister teams would not meet  during the 2007 season, the Gores asserted mastery over their sisters when they crushed the Betties 120-47 in the 2008 season opener. This dominance continued in subsequent  regular seasons, and spilled over into the playoffs as well, seeing the Gores eliminate the Betties in the 2008 and 2010 semifinals, not to mention the 2009 Battle for the Boot.  Coming in to the 2012 season, the Gores had an overwhelming 7-0 record against their counterparts. Of course, records and streaks are meant to be broken, and during the 2012 regular season, the tides finally turned. In the midst of a team-defining season—and taking advantage of a depleted Gores roster—the  Betties simply overwhelmed the Gores to close out the regular season. Now, for the first time ever, the Betties have to be considered the favourites as they head into this semi-final rematch.

PATIENCE PAYS OFF

This season, the Betties defeated the Gores for the first time ever (142-50). (Photo by Neil Gunner)

It’s been a season of rebirth for the Smoke City Betties. Despite early season losses to the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy!, their performances were light years above and beyond those of the previous two seasons. In both games, brilliant beginnings gave way to missed opportunities: against the Dolls, the Betties led at half, while they jumped out to a 22-0 lead against the Chicks before being blown out in the end. But a strong, confidence-building quarterfinal appearance at the Beast of the East showed that this team was on the verge of something special, and it all came together in the regular season finale. It was a fast, even, well-paced game throughout much of the first half, while the Gores leapt out to a quick lead, the Betties always seemed a step ahead. With a killer-instinct not seen in years, the Betties eventually took advantage of an undermanned and battered Gores to run away with it in the end.

Even with star rookies, the Betties are still led by veterans like Lady Scorcher, titmouse and BruiseBerry Pie. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Consistency has been the trademark of this Betties team, a consistency built from a solid core. Seven skaters skated over 40% of the Betties jams this season, paced by veteran Mia Culprit who lead the league with a 60% track percentage and was the team’s dominant pivot. Sin D Drop-her, Lady Scorcher, BruiseBerry Pie, Platinum Bomb, and Misery Mae provided the leadership support in the pack, while titmouse, putting together the best season of her career (130 points, 50% lead percentage), led a jammer rotation that included BruiseBerry Pie (3.7 points per jam), Wolverina (am emerging double threat) and rookie-of-the year contender Slaptrick Swayze (57% lead percentage). Slaptrick’s greatest challenge for rookie of the year may actually come in the form of her teammate Renny Rumble. Renny looked like a veteran on the track, and was rewarded with ample track time, finishing with a 53% jam percentage and a plus/minus of +70.

A REBUILD IN  PROGRESS

For the first time ever, the Gores did not finish atop the regular season standings. (Photo by Kevin Konnyu)

The Gore-Gore Rollergirls entered the 2012 season having not lost a ToRD regular season game in four years (their one and only loss); they stagger into the 2012 playoffs having lost two of three. After dominating the first five seasons of ToRD (winning three championships and appearing in all five finals), the Gores find themselves in the unusual position of having to face adversity.  Injuries to top jammers Dust Bunny and Bambi (and a lack of depth at the position) coupled with injuries to some key pack players (like Aston Martini) and the retirement of others (like Brim Stone) left the team exposed and vulnerable (and needing to call up D-VAS injury replacements, which they will also have to do for the semifinals), and the Betties took advantage in the final game of the season, serving the Gores their worst defeat in ToRD history (142 points). Their third place finish marks the first time ever that the Gore-Gore Rollergirls have not finished atop the Toronto Roller Derby regular season standings.

Transfer skater Getcha Kicks will make her ToRD debut with the Gores. (Photo by Joe Mac)

The Gores pack has taken a hit this season, but despite missing another key blocker Molly Boom for this game, they still have a solid core of Lady Gagya, Chronic, and Foxy Sinatra leading the way. Where they may run into trouble is with offense. Despite missing one full game (Bambi) or virtually one full game (Dust Bunny), the Gore-Gore Rollergirls top jammers still had remarkable seasons. Both Bambi and Dusty finished the season with over 100 points (120 and 111 respectively), equal 45% lead percentages, and solid jammer plus/minuses (+47 and +52). While Bambi will be available for the game, she has not skated in virtually two months and may not be her usual self. Unfortunately for the Gores, the jammer depth doesn’t extend far down the bench. This season efforts were made to advance both Draculaura and Santa Muerte into the roles, and while each had limited success, neither has the experience to anchor an offense. This is where it could get interesting for the D-VAS call ups. LowBlowPalooza gained considerable jamming experience with the D-VAS this season including a lot of track time at the recent Fresh and Furious Tournament, and recent transfer skater Getcha Kicks will make her ToRD debut (she was called up as an alternate in the last Gores’ game). The most experienced of the D-VAS skaters, Getcha has anchored an offense before, and she will be a key addition to the team and could make for an interesting story in the semifinal.

* The ToRD semifinal between the Gore-Gore Rollergirls and the Smoke City Betties will be the main event in a double header. Kicking off the evening will be a showdown between ToRD’s Death Track Dolls and the Queen City houseleague champs the Nickel City Knockouts (out of Buffalo). Doors open at 5:00 PM. The semi-final is scheduled to get underway at 8:00 PM. Tickets are available online or at a number of downtown vendors.