Chicks Ahoy! 157 vs. Gore-Gore Rollergirls 218
When last they met, the Chicks Ahoy! and the Gore-Gore Rollergirls were on different paths. The Gores were wrapping up a second place finish in the 2013 regular season standings while the Chicks were putting to rest a rough, rebuilding season that saw them suffer historic losses (all of this in the wake of back-to-back ToRD championships). The Gores took the final game of the 2013 regular season 323-75 in a lopsided, hard-to-watch game. Fast forward half a year and the Chicks Ahoy!, despite not too many changes to the roster, are suddenly back in the conversation, and it’s not that the Gores have slipped, as they too seem poised to contend.
Toronto Roller Derby kicked off its 2014 house league season in style at The Bunker in Downsview Park on Saturday night in front of a packed house of fans who braved the frigid temperatures in order to ring in ToRD’s 8th season. Despite a much more competitive match than their last tilt, in the end the Gores continued their regular season domination over their long-time rivals Chicks Ahoy! with a hard fought 218-157 victory. It was the seventh time the two teams have met in ToRD’s regular season, and the sixth time the Gores emerged victorious.
Both the Chicks and the Gores were bolstered this season by choosing wisely in an entry draft that featured a number of experienced skaters transferring from leagues as far away as Halifax and Vancouver: some of these so called “rookies” had a major impact on the season opener. Both teams seemed hesitant off of the starting whistle, but it was the Chicks who took advantage of some early Gore penalty trouble. One question the Chicks had entering the season was with their jammer rotation and they answered that quickly. Second-year Chicks Heavy Knitter and Chevy Chase-Her (fully healed from injury) were joined by draftees Hyena Koffinkat and the blazingly fast Sneaky Dee to form a rotation that has the potential to see out the season. The Gores also threw a rookie into the rotation as Lumberjack Flash joined Lexi Con, Taranasaurus Rex and R.I. Pink with the star in the opening period. With depleted packs, the Gores couldn’t get much going early on, while the Chicks pulled ahead 29-13 ten minutes in.
But the Gores roared back. After riding through the penalty troubles, the Gores took off, picking up a string of five straight lead-jammer statuses and going on a 48-0 run to retake the lead. Indicative of a season opener, the first half had wild swings in momentum as the rust fell off and both teams struggled through penalty issues and loose packs, with neither able to take control. A final-jam power jam for the Chicks (skated by Sneaky Dee who had 34 first-half points) had them within 9, down 91-82 at the half.
The Gores made a slight adjustment at half time, swapping in rookie transfer Guardian Paingel to the jammer rotation and slipping last year’s second-leading scorer T-Rex into the pack (she had 29 points in the first half to lead the Gores in scoring). The Chicks stuck with the plan and led off with Hyena Koffinkat (who had made a big impression with 35 points in the opening period); unfortunately, the Terminal City transfer found herself sitting for back-to-back penalties that allowed her Vancouver counterpart, Paingel, to make her mark on the game. The Gores came out flying to start the second half and took advantage of the penalty trouble for a 31-0 run that helped them amass a lead that the Chicks, despite determined play, could not overcome. Paingel would pick up three leads in her first three jams and fourteen points in the process (she’d finish with 21 in the half).
Last year’s leading scorer, Lexi Con, who had a relatively quiet first half, simply took over in the second, picking up 76 points (for 104 on the game). But it was also the pack work that was the difference. Veterans Santa Muerte and Chronic were simply dominant at times, and the leadership of pivot Kandy Barr was undeniable as well. But depth players also stood out with Viktory Lapp playing the most effective game of her career, while rookie (and Halifax transfer) Machu Beatchu looked incredibly comfortable in her first game in Toronto, despite running into some penalty trouble.
The Chicks also saw some depth players step up into big roles, perhaps none more so than R2-Smack-U who often donned the stripe as pivot, Rosemary’s Rabies who has transitioned from jammer to blocker this season and was excellent on the track with some timely snipes and demoralizing drag backs, and Emraged who seems ready and willing to build off of an impressive rookie season in 2013. But it was the veterans who led the way with Robber Blind and an inspired Tess D-Urb-Evil picking up heavy minutes and Rebel Rock-It and Hoff (both returning to the Chicks after Rebel spent last season on CN Power and Hoff spent it on injured reserve) adding depth; Biggley Smallz, who was having a big game, fell into penalty trouble early and eventually fouled out.
Although the Chicks were never down by more than 61 in the half, they were never able to get closer than 30 either and a balanced Gores’ half allowed them to take their victory comfortably. In the end, the Gores showed that they are a team to beat this season, but perhaps more importantly, the Chicks are back as well. The close game is nice a season-opening promise of parity in Toronto Roller Derby.
TJRD Torontosaurus Wrex 236 vs. AJRD Blister Sisters 82
But it wasn’t all about ToRD on Saturday, as the night was capped off by a thoroughly entertaining junior bout that saw Toronto Junior Roller Derby’s Torontosaurus Wrex hold off Alliston’s Blisters Sisters 236-82.
The incredible growth of flat track roller derby has continued unabated and is establishing a system of grassroots support that will provide a platform of continued stability for the growth of the sport; something that is never more apparent than when the juniors take to the track.
Toronto hosted Alliston to kick off their 2014 season and they looked very strong. It was close in the early going, as the hosts led 111-45 at halftime of the JRDA-sanctioned game, but they simply overwhelmed Alliston in the second half to record the 154-point win. It was a thoroughly enjoyable game—high in strategy, stratospheric in effort—a fine showcase of the future of the sport.
Fans will get another chance to watch Toronto’s juniors play on May 10th when they once again team up with their big sisters from ToRD for a game at The Bunker.
***Next up for Toronto Roller Derby: On February 8th ToRD’s marquee team, CN Power, will host Team Ontario in a preseason matchup that will feature some of the finest skaters in the province.