Steel City Roller Derby

Toronto Teams Go 6-0 at a Thrilling 2015 Quad City Chaos

Toronto proved to be ungracious hosts on the track, sweeping both the A and B-team portions of an extraordinarily exciting tournament.

The 2015 QCC featured incredibly close action, with an average differential of 36 points in the six D1 games.

The 2015 QCC featured incredibly close action, with an average differential of 36 points in the six D1 games. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Early on in Toronto Roller Derby’s 6th annual Quad City Chaos, the dominant narrative looked as if it would the upsets, but as they games progressed that story was tweaked and what emerged was a tournament dominated by parity, at least on the A-team level, with the average point-differential over the six-game round robin tournament being a measly 36 points, with most (if not all) of the games looking like they could have gone either way. The widest gap of the weekend was a 55-point Toronto win over Boston that was actually much closer than even the score would indicate, evidenced by the seven lead changes that occurred in the game (although they all did occur in the opening half). It was an extraordinary bit of scheduling for the organizers from Toronto Roller Derby, so much so that all of the teams can leave feeling pretty happy about their results.

DIVISION 1 GAMES

An expected CN Power rebuild looks more like a rebirth after a 3-0 weekend. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

An expected CN Power rebuild looks more like a rebirth after a 3-0 weekend. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

One of the questions coming into the game was how a rebuilding Toronto roster would perform against three WFTDA D1 teams whose rosters remained relatively intact from the 2014 season; by the end of the weekend, it was clear that this CN Power team is going through a rebirth more than a rebuild: with a new jammer rotation and a completely new bench staff, Toronto actually looked reenergized and refocused after a somewhat bland 2014 season in which the team appeared to have plateaued. Bolstered by some experienced transfers and a core of internally developed skaters who represent the first wave of graduates of the B-team program, Toronto seems ready for a competitive push up the D1 rankings this season. It was the first time since 2012 (and only the second time ever) that 28th ranked Toronto has gone 3-0 at their own tournament, holding their rankings against the Rideau Valley Vixens (39th) and (29th) Steel City, while upsetting 25th ranked Boston.

Rideau Valley (1-2 on the weekend) also has to be incredibly happy with the results. With the same roster that brought them all the way to the WFTDA D2 championship last year, the Vixens continue to defy expectations and climb the ladder with a team whose core has been together for years now. The Ottawa-based team played above their rankings on the weekend, looking every-bit the equal to all of their opponents. Kicking off the tournament with a significant upset over Steel City, the Vixens gave Toronto all the hosts could handle on Saturday night in a game that featured an incredible eleven lead changes (including nine in the opening half), but as they did all weekend, Toronto seemed to get stronger deep into games and Rideau couldn’t replicate the upset they managed the last time the teams squared off at QCC 2013. The Vixens had a remarkably similar result against Boston, a game in which they could not maintain their intensity through to the end, but looked strong throughout.

Boston jammer Maya Mangleyou duels with Toronto's Renny Rumble while Lil Paine looks on. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Boston jammer Maya Mangleyou duels with Toronto’s Renny Rumble while Lil Paine looks on. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Boston (2-1) had an up and down weekend. Although they went nose-to-nose with Toronto for the first half of their Saturday showdown, the hosts pulled ahead early in the second, and Boston simply could not catch them. But the loss seemed to charge the team up, and after a shaky start against Steel City, managed to pull ahead of Pittsburgh at the midway point of the first half and held off their opponents through to the end; it was a similar performance against Rideau Valley on Sunday.

Steel City (0-3) went winless on the weekend, although they certainly didn’t seem like a team defeated and led for portions of all of their games; the difference early on in the 2015 season seemed to be consistency and focus for this Steel Hurtin’ team that had a hard time maintaining momentum. In particular, Pittsburgh led for much of the second half against Toronto, but could not put the team away, and CN Power patiently held on, eventually blowing by Steel Hurtin’ over a dominant final five minutes.

Despite the results, all four teams leave the 2015 Quad City Chaos having certainly improved their position in the WFTDA’s ranking system, showing that despite some criticism to the contrary, all things being equal, the ranking system rewards close, evenly matched games.

REGULATION GAMES

Rideau Valley's Sirens and Toronto's Bay Street Bruisers faced off for the first time ever. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Rideau Valley’s Sirens and Toronto’s Bay Street Bruisers faced off for the first time ever. (Photo by Joe Mac)

We didn’t see quite the parity in the B-team portion of the tournament, as the Bay Street Bruisers continued a three-year unbeaten streak (7-0) at the event with an at times dominant run through the competition (including a 250-point rout of the Steel Beamers). However, the hosts were certainly challenged against the B-Party, with Boston leading for the vast majority of the game, and virtually the whole second half. But they could not put the hosts away, with the Bruisers managing to stay within 20 for most of the game. And then in the final moments, they surged past their Boston counterparts for the most thrilling, not to mention closest, result of the weekend: a 4-point win that highlighted the perseverance of Toronto’s B-team.

THE PERFORMERS

Steel City's Nick Rollfiliac (seen here staying a step ahead of Boston's Ginger Kid) was named blocker MVP. (Photo by Joe Mac)

Steel City’s Nick Rollfiliac (seen here staying a step ahead of Boston’s Ginger Kid) was named blocker MVP. (Photo by Joe Mac)

On a weekend where there was barely anything separating the competition on the track, choosing MVPs was a challenging feat that lead to some interesting (but certainly always deserving) choices. Both Toronto and Boston’s packs were dominant at times, and pulling one out of the cohesive units was impossible, so it was Steel City’s relentless Nick Rollfiliac who took the honours as A-team blocker MVP. Most of the jammers also had a hard time maintaining consistency over the course of the weekend, but in the end it was Soul Rekker’s tireless play over all three games that led to her selection of MVP. Boston B-Party blocker MC SlamHer took home MVP for the regulation portion along side Bruisers’ jammer Devochka who had three strong, clean and consistent games for the hosts.

THE PENALTIES

Early on in the tournament, during the first B-team game, there were over 100 penalties called, filling the board and leading to large stretches of chaos on the track. It became, momentarily, a thrilling anomaly, with pictures of the white board snapped and buzz spreading from the venue and onto social media; but then, it quickly became clear that this was actually going to be close to a norm for the weekend, and the giddy buzz dissipated. Not only that, there were murmurs on social media indicating that early in 2015 this is a trend certainly not limited to the Quad City Chaos.

I write this not as a criticism of the officiating (the ref crew was staffed with some of the finest, highest certified refs in the region), but just to point out the apparent disconnect between the way the game is being officiated right now and the way it is being played on the track; it was, for some, as fascinating as it was frustrating, but it is clear that something’s got to give. It is reminiscent of the way things were leading up to the elimination of minors.

In sports, the roles of the officials are generally to ensure safety and fairness; in roller derby there is also a third, punitive arm to officiating; however, we’ve started to move away from this (with the slight relaxing of inadvertent cutting penalties, for example), but there still seems to be genuine confusion at times on behalf of the skaters on impact assessment but also on failure to return/reform penalties that were often called in rapid-fire succession against multiple players simultaneously, making it challenging (and confusing) for skaters to quickly and clearly reform (for example, there were twenty two out of play penalties called in the Toronto vs. Steel City game (and 116 penalties in total), leading to multiple instances of only four, three, or even just two blockers on the track). Historically, the WFTDA has shown the willingness and ability to cautiously evolve over time, and certainly these issues will be resolved. But in a time when the new norm seems to be 80, 90, and even 100 penalties in a game, there is a conversation that needs to happen, and it should be a constructive one, because I think everyone (officials and skaters alike) would agree that the current norm is not sustainable.

Nonetheless, the consistency with which calls were made across teams and games did mean that the parity between the clubs still won out in the end, providing the spectators with thrilling games and narrow results despite of the steady stream of skaters to the penalty box.

Quad City Chaos 2015 Banner

WFTDA DIVISION 1 RESULTS

Steel City Roller Derby (Steel Hurtin’) (29th) 142 vs. Rideau Valley Roller Girls (Vixens) (39th) 165 (watch)

Boston Derby Dames (Boston Massacre) (25th) 174 vs. Toronto Roller Derby (CN Power) (28th) 229 (watch)

Boston 169 vs. Steel City 127 (watch)

Toronto 186 vs. Rideau Valley 154 (watch)

Boston 182 vs. Rideau Valley 159 (watch)

Toronto 235 vs. Steel City 191 (watch)

REGULATION RESULTS

Bay Street Bruisers 253 vs. Rideau Valley Sirens 144 (watch)

Bay Street Bruisers 184 vs. Boston B-Party 180 (watch)

Bay Street Bruisers 319 vs. Steel Beamers 69 (watch)

Nerd Glasses

 

**The games were streamed live by layer9.ca, with Saturday night’s games and the final game on Sunday simulcast on WFTDA.TV. Watch the archives here.

**Toronto Roller Derby skater Pr’Editor provided game-by-game recaps for Derby Central all weekend. You can read her work here.

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Quad City Chaos 2015 Preview

This marks the sixth edition of the two-day round robin tournament featuring four WFTDA Division 1 teams and three B-team games.

Quad_City_Chaos_2015Since 2010, Toronto Roller Derby’s Quad City Chaos has been a launching point for the Canadian travel-team season, and while last year’s technically featured four WFTDA D1 teams for the first time (Bleeding Heartland had slipped out of the Top 40 just weeks before the tournament began), this year it is official: this will be a complete WFTDA D1 tournament. And it features four teams with a lot to prove.

Hosts Toronto, looking to get off the plateau they’ve found themselves on for the past year, welcome Rideau Valley back to the QCC for the fourth time and first since 2013, while the historic Boston Derby Dames and Pittsburgh’s Steel City Roller Derby make their QCC debuts, both having begun to develop histories with the tournament’s host. The 2014 QCC was arguably the most thrilling on record, but given the quality and the relatively close rankings of the combatants, this year’s could top even that.

CNPOWER 2015

Toronto Roller Derby: CN Power (28th)

The hosts have not always fared well at QCC, and after going 3-0 in 2012, have managed only a 2-4 record at the event since then. Last year, they played in two of the most thrilling games in the tournament’s history, a 17-point loss to Montreal (which remains the closest a Canadian team has come to defeating the Skids in regulation/sanctioned play), followed by a 14-point defeat at the hands of Ohio. Overall, Toronto has a QCC record of 9-6.

Toronto also has some form of a relationship with all three combatants. Although they sport a 4-1 record against the Rideau Valley Vixens, their last meeting at QCC 2013 (and the only sanctioned bout between the two) ended with a 13-point Vixens’ upset. Last year, they squared off against Steel City twice, both outstanding games, with Steel Hurtin’ taking the regular season showdown by 20 before falling in the consolation round of the playoffs to Toronto by 14. Boston and Toronto have only faced each other once, in the 2013 playoffs, with Toronto scoring a miniscule 6-point win.

Toronto has had little action so far this season, with only a closed, unsanctioned win over Queen City under its belt. And it is a slightly rebuilt roster from the one that went 8-12 last season, most notably in the jammer rotation (and of the four QCC teams, it is certainly the roster with the most changes). Last year’s core playoff rotation will not be on the bench at QCC, whether due to unavailability (Kookie Doe) or retirement (Dusty, Motorhead Molly). But bolstered by some very experienced transfers and a returning blocking core, Toronto may be able to weather this rebuild.

Boston 2015

Boston Derby Dames: Boston Massacre (25th)

One of flat track’s most venerable teams, Boston returns this season with its 2014 playoff lineup virtually in tact (one noticeable absence is playoff track-time leader Vixen Ta Hitcha). Although first time QCCers, Boston has a long history in Canada, largely as long-time frenemies of Montreal, but they do potentially enter the tournament with revenge on their minds, having last met Toronto in the 2013 playoffs, losing a heartbreaker by only 6 points.

Boston had a tough 2014, going 2-7 in sanctioned play (4-7 overall), and a 2-2 playoff record saw them finish 7th in their Division. They have never faced off against Rideau Valley and haven’t seen Steel City on the track since 2011, but with a roster full of holdovers led by veterans Maya Mangleyou (no stranger to Canadian fans as a key piece of Team Canada 2014), Shark Week, Ginger Kid and Lil’ Pain, Boston may be the team to watch at this year’s Quad City Chaos.

This weekend will mark the first action of the year for Boston.

HurtinTeam2014

Steel City Roller Derby: Steel Hurtin’ (29th)

As with Boston, Steel City makes its Quad City Chaos debut with its 2014 roster largely unchanged (also like Boston, there is one noticeable absence, with playoff track-time leader Athena gone from Steel Hurtin’s lineup). Pittsburgh managed a decent 2014 going 7-7 on the season, which forced it into a tough Division Play-in game against Arizona that it lost narrowly. Its tight games against Toronto last season make that match-up intriguing, and with a consistent roster, they could have an edge.

Steel City kicked off its 2015 season with a 215-154 victory over 73rd ranked Charlottesville Derby Dames, and as with Boston is led into battle by a very experienced core led by Team USA skater Snot Rocket Science, but also long-time double threat Hurricane Heather, jammer Leannibal Lector, and blockers Stark Raven and Ally McKill.

 vixens2014_logo-resize

Rideau Valley Roller Girls: Vixens (39th)

Last year’s darlings of Division 2, RVRG’s 2014 success means the road will be that much more challenging in 2015, but also has the potential to be considerably more rewarding. The Vixens tore up their Division 2 playoff tournament last season, crushing the competition in the early rounds before holding off Bear City in the final, in one of the more thrilling games of the season. They fell to Detroit in the D2 final, but the appearance at Champs was enough to vault them into Division 1 for the first time.

In 2015, the Vixens are looking to build off of their most successful season to date, one in which they compiled a 9-2 sanctioned record (10-2 overall) with losses only to Calgary (by 28 points) and Detroit in the D2 final. Similar to Steel City and Boston, The Vixens return with virtually the same lineup this season. And the question remains not how good the likes of Soul Rekker, Shania Pain (jammers), Murphy, Reyes, Brennan, Bottema, Sister Disaster and Rudolph will be, but how much the supporting cast rises up around them. This team’s been riding a short bench for a few years now, and will need to start building depth looking forward, so against the level of competition at QCC, the key could be in skaters like Melanie Austin, Lackey and Restless Rose.

This is the fourth QCC for the Vixens, and the first since 2013. They’ve compiled a career record of 3-6 at the tournament

BRUISERS

B-Team Showdown

Since 2013, the Bay Street Bruisers have hosted B-team games along side their big sisters, and this season, that portion of the tournament has expanded to three games, showcasing the B-squads of each A-team participant. The Bruisers have yet to be defeated at the QCC, compiling a 4-0 record. However, this year’s competition could be the fiercest yet. While they have never faced Rideau Valley’s Sirens or the Boston B Party, they did managed a one-sided 288-97 victory over the Steel Beamers in Pittsburgh last season. But in B-team age, a year can be an eternity.

Neither the Beamers nor the B Party have seen competition yet this season, while the Bruisers are coming off of a tough 170-155 win over Royal City (Guelph’s WFTDA team), and the Sirens tasted defeat against Montreal’s Sexpos. While that initial track time may give the Canadian teams a slight edge, it probably won’t be enough to intimidate their American opponents.

Nerd Glasses

**Action begins at 10:00 AM sharp on Saturday, March 21. Day and weekend passes are available; separate tickets for Saturday night’s double header are also available.

**Every moment of QCC 2015 will be boutcast live by layer9.ca, with Saturday night’s double header and Sunday’s final game simulcast on WFTDA.TV. Full viewing schedule is available here.

**Check out this QCC 2015 trailer (produced by Tiffany Beaudin):

 

Catch Up on the Past QCCs!

 

2011 Quad City Chaos Poster.

2011 Quad City Chaos Poster.

Quad City Chaos 2014

Quad City Chaos 2013

Quad City Chaos 2012

Quad City Chaos 2011

Quad City Chaos 2010

While the All Stars are Away, the Young Stars Will Play

ToRD’s “young stars”, the D-VAS, and Toronto Junior Roller Derby hosted a double header as their big sisters on CN Power and the Bay Street Bruisers hit the road.

Montreal and Toronto's junior teams played a 9-point game one year ago. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

Montreal and Toronto’s junior teams played a 9-point game one year ago. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

This weekend was a big one for Toronto Roller Derby; with its two travel teams on the road, each facing two tough matchups, the D-VAS, the house league farm team (AKA: the “future stars” travel team), held down the fort, hosting a double header with ToRD’s JRDA affiliate Toronto Junior Roller Derby. In terms of wins/losses it was a tough weekend for the city, its teams going a combined 1-5, but even within the losses there were some bright spots and solid results.

First off, on the home front, there was a rare D-VAS/Toronto Junior Roller Derby double header at The Bunker featuring guests from Lindsay (Lindsay Roller Derby) in the senior game and Montreal in the junior game. TJRD kicked things off against Rhythm and Bruise, their Montreal counterparts. This was a rematch of an incredibly close game (226-217) won by Montreal in Montreal almost exactly a year ago.

It has been astonishing watching the development of junior roller derby over the past four years: from awkward, un-strategic lap-skating to full on, hard fought strategically smart derby, the junior programs across the country have grown in leaps in bounds in a very short period of time. And it’s not only in our country; the Junior Roller Derby Association (JRDA) has become incredibly organized, to the point where there are sanctioning procedures and this year will introduce regional playoffs along with the increasing popular JuniorCon. Both Montreal and Toronto are Level 2 members of the JRDA, and play a slightly modified WFTDA rule set.

Montreal's El Skeletto tries to get through a Toronto two-wall of Awesome Sauce and Haylstorm. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Montreal’s Blue Zebra tries to get through a Toronto two-wall of Awesome Sauce and Haylstorm. (Photo by Greg Russell)

Given the level of intensity and the quality of the contact, for fans of flat track roller derby, there is little difference between the senior and junior games at this level. Things started out tight between both teams with Montreal using some power jams to pad a bit of a lead at half, up 109-48. Penalty troubles would continue to be the story in the second as pack and jammer penalties for Toronto allowed Montreal to maintain the distance; indeed, they managed to hold a 50-point for much of the half (it was 150-100 with 12 minutes left to play) before Montreal put it away in the end, pulling away for the 217-114 win.

There were phenomenal moments from each team, and strong play from skaters from both sides. Montreal’s attack was led by some strong jamming from El Skeletto, who jammed a few of those second-half power jams putting a ton of points on the board. Bess Kind was a presence on both sides of the jammer line, having a strong game as both a pivot and jammer. For Toronto, Skate of Emergency (who’s also jammed in the past) was excellent in the pack, locking in some strong one-on-one defence. Art Attack-Her continues to develop as a jammer, but Toronto’s roster seems to be defined by its double threats, with Awesome Sauce, Haylstorm, FBI and captain Mizz CrushHer looking comfortable both in the pack and with the star.

The D-VAS hosted Lindsay in their second home game of the season. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The D-VAS hosted Lindsay in their second home game of the season. (Photo by Neil Gunner)

The D-VAS, featuring ToRD’s 2015 draft-eligible skaters, played in its third game of the season, coming off of a home win against Durham’s DRRDy Farmers (252-110) and a road loss to the surging Fergus Feims (168-276). They faced off against a tough Lindsay team.

Lindsay Roller Derby is an interesting league, part of the seemingly roster-rotating group of leagues that includes Northumberland Roller Derby, Peterborough, and Durham Region: All of this intermingling and co-training has led to the development of some excellent skaters and has a given a level of consistency to these leagues that may otherwise have been lacking. On Saturday, Lindsay was led by a core of skaters with significant experience playing for Durham Region (12 Gage, Psycho Magnet, and String Blade are all Atom Smashers, while Crazy Momma plays for the Farmers). While these skaters all stood out significantly in the pack, there is some excellent homegrown talent as well, including the hard-hitting Juniper Hill and the relentless Jensational in the pack. But the secret weapons of the squad could be its jammer rotation, built around the athletic Jennerator and the wily UnAlish’D, both excellent jammers who carved up the D-VAS’ packs all night.

The D-VAS themselves are starting to round into form. With months left before the next entry draft, there is a still a lot of time for skaters to step up and make an argument for themselves, but right now there are a few key skaters on the team. In the pack, Juggernaut J and April Cruel continue to lead the way: Juggernaut with her controlled positional play and April with her relentless blocking (the former ref has all of the fearlessness and the instincts for the game [she’s already providing timely offense] and just needs to gain some control from a skating fundamentals point of view). Before suffering an injury, Knoccer Mom was also having a strong game, while Durham transfer Slamureye’s previous experience is showing with her on-track leadership. The D-VAS are also showing some depth from the jammers as well, with former ref Lace Frehley skating an excellent game, joining the increasingly reliable Battering Ma’am and the quick and agile Murdercat as leaders of the offense.

D-VAS blocker Juggernaut J attempts to slow Lindsay jammer UnAlish'D. (Photo by Greg Russell)

D-VAS blocker Juggernaut J attempts to slow Lindsay jammer UnAlish’D. (Photo by Greg Russell)

The experience of Lindsay showed in the early going as they quickly built a small but stable lead. It was actually a tight defensive game (the score was 49-16 with ten left in the first) with Lindsay holding a 72-30 lead at half. It was much the same in the second with both teams managing to up the offensive production. Lindsay held on for the 169-96 win.

While the future was on full display in Toronto, ToRD’s present was on the road for two important games. On Saturday in Pittsburgh, The Bay Street Bruisers continued their B-level dominance with a one-sided win over the Steel Beamers (288-97), while CN Power (23rd in the WFTDA) and Steel Hurtin’ (19th) went toe-to-toe for much of the game (the hosts were up by 2 points at half) before Steel City was able to hold off Toronto with a 156-136 victory.

On Sunday, Toronto headed to Columbus to play the two Atlanta teams who’d played there the night before. The Bruisers fell into a deep whole early against the The Rumble Bs before surging back; unfortunately, they were unable to fully bridge the gap, falling 234-190 to a talented squad. The last time CN Power met Atlanta’s Dirty South Derby Girls (15th) was in last year’s playoffs, and Toronto nearly shocked the heavily favoured Atlanta skaters before losing by 40. Despite missing key skaters, Toronto once again stuck with Atlanta and put in a solid performance in the 214-110 loss.

Toronto recently surged to 13th in the WFTDA before a six (now eight) game losing streak knocked them back to 23rd. This weekend’s performance showed that this is properly the correct ranking for the team right now. A winnable-20 point loss to a team ranked four spots above them followed by a strong showing against an Atlanta team nearly ten spots above them will help the team hold its spot as the skaters rest up and repair for a late-season playoff push.

***CN Power will be heading to Spring Roll next weekend in Fort Wayne where they will face some tough competition. On May 24th, Toronto’s house league season continues with the the Death Track Dolls and Chicks Ahoy! meeting in a regular season matchup.