The Canadian roller derby season truly got underway this weekend with teams clear across the nation in action. In Toronto, ToRD closed out its house league regular season with a highly anticipated showdown between the defending champion Death Track Dolls and the Smoke City Betties. Tied in the standings heading into the game, the Dolls clinched second spot and a bye to the semifinals with a tense 175-138 victory that was not sewn up until the final moments of the second half. The Betties will now face off against the Chicks Ahoy! in a second-chance quarterfinal matchup.
The Dolls led from start to finish, but the 37-point differential in the end was actually the largest lead of the game. There was some concern over the Dolls’ jammer rotation coming into this one: with veteran blocker Dawson out after an off-track injury, Scarcasm slipped from the rotation back into the pack leaving rookies PrEditor and Common Dominator with a bulk of the track time, but the first-year jammers did not disappoint, with PrEditor in particular skating a break-out performance with the star. But it was the more experienced jammers, Devochka and especially Sleeper Hold, who were the difference makers in this one.
It was tight at the start, with the Betties countering with their usual jammer rotation of the jukey Wolverina, WackerHer, Kil’Her At Large and the tireless Smoka Cola; it wasn’t until seven minutes into the opening half when a Dolls’ power jam let them pull ahead 29-7 that either team seemed to make a move. But whenever the Dolls threatened to pull away, the Betties responded, and the biggest lead of the half (30 points with ten to go) was whittled back down to 12 points after a 23-0 Betties run. The teams traded leads and points the rest of the way with the Dolls ahead narrowly, 93-83, at the break.
A late-half collision between the Dolls’ Hannibelle and the Betties’ Honey Boom Boom, saw Boom bloodied and taken out of the game, a huge loss for the Betties’ pack, who got strong performances from the usual suspects including SewWhat? and Tushy Galore (not to mention another monster performance from LowBlowPalooza), but were also debuting rookie Juggernaut J and saw first games of the year for Jenny Spector and Genuine Risk. The Dolls’ packs took advantage of the comparative lack of experience with two solid lines held down by offensive-blocking leader Getcha Kicks, Stringer Belle and Scarcasm on one side and Robotomy and Hannibelle on the other, but also welcomed to the track converted referee Lace Frehley in her Dolls’ debut.
The Dolls held the lead for the opening five minutes of the second before the Betties put forth their most sustained offensive push of the game, going on a 22-3 run over the next ten minutes to pull within 3, down 117-114, nearing the midway point of the second.
In the end, you could boil the difference in the game down to two things: match-ups and discipline. First off, the Dolls played one of the cleanest games in recent ToRD history, picking up a total of eighteen penalties (and no jammer penalties, to the Betties’ four), while they also made subtle matchup adjustments throughout the game. Both of these things were the in play at the turning point of the game.
Throughout the first half, Smoke Cola had often found herself matched up against the Dolls’ rookie jammers, and the experienced jammer took advantage (including picking up lead on her first five jams); however, in the second half, Smoka could barely move an inch without Dolls’ more experienced Sleeper Hold stuck to her side, and it was a shift that worked: with the Betties threatening and within three points, Sleeper was actively involved in drawing a cut on Smoka Cola to give the Dolls a crucial power jam and letting them pull away. Another power jam on the final jam sealed the deal and allowed the Dolls to hold on for the statement-making 37-point victory, wrapping up second place in the 2015 regular season standings.
**The ToRD house league teams get a break now as they gear up for Montreal’s Beast of the East, with the quarterfinal showdown tentatively scheduled for May 9th.
It was a busy weekend all across the country at all levels of play. Perhaps most significantly, Calgary (60th and in WFTDA’s Division 2) was making its 2015 WFTDA sanctioned debut at How the West Was Won and seemed to pick up right where they left off in 2014, scoring a major upset win over St. Chux Derby Chix (38th in D1) 137-103 before falling to a strong Arizona (34th) team, 270-139. They wrapped up the weekend with another upset, this time a 187-108 win against Brew City (50th). Calgary closed out 2014 by surging into a D2 playoff spot, but at this rate they may just propel themselves right into D1 before the year is out! Full results from HTWWW are available here.
Royal City’s Brute-Leggers were on the road for their WFTDA debut this weekend, and picked up two big wins, first 253-102 over Hellions of Troy (126th, D3) and then 157-109 over other WFTDA newcomers Albany Roller Derby.
Speaking of regular seasons, while Toronto’s was ending, Montreal’s was just getting under way with Les Filles du Roi winning this year’s annual round-robin tournament to kick off the season. FDR defeated Les Contrabanditas 125-99 and La Racaille 136-92 to emerge as front-runners in the league this season. The Ditas and La Racaille played a tight bout, 110-100 for the Ditas, to round out the night.
Also, Orangeville hosted a full-day men’s and women’s round robin tournament that saw the GTA Rollergirls G-sTARs go 2-0, knocking off Kingston Disloyalists 195-66 and Orangeville 243-139. The hosts, Orangeville Pulp Affliction, defeated Kingston 228-141. At the same event, Toronto Men’s Roller Derby put in a strong showing against Montreal’s Mont Royals, holding the 15th ranked MRDA team to a respectable 278-86. Full results available here.
**Other Canadian roller derby scores? Please post them in the comments section below.