It was a historic night at the Bunker in Downsview Park on Saturday as Toronto Roller Derby’s CN Power played host to the inaugural game for the recently formed Team Ontario. It was a preseason tune up for ToRD’s 29th ranked WFTDA Division 1 team, and the first time derby fans got to take a look at the non-Toronto based members of our provincial team. Adding to that collection of talent were the seven Team Ontario skaters on CN Power’s roster. It was a thrilling game played at an incredibly high level. In the end, Toronto had a little too much fire power for their provincial counterparts as the hosts won 211-152.
A bulk of Team Ontario’s members came from the province’s other top WFTDA leagues in Rideau Valley (Ottawa) and Tri-City (Kitchener-Waterloo), but the squad also featured skaters from Timmins (Nasty Nads), Alliston (Mad Megz), Detroit (USS DentHerPrize) and Philadelphia (Whacks Poetic, formerly of Hammer City) among others. Despite missing the key members from Toronto, it was a formidable lineup.
The game actually started off in Team Ontario’s favour. With Thunder jammer Ova Kill on the line and a nasty duo of Leigh Wylde (AKA: Leighzzie Borden; Wild Leigh Coyote) and Hannah Murphy laying heavy D on CN Power’s Dusty, they caught a rusty CN Power off guard to spring out to an 8-0 lead. But Toronto, coming off of its best season after making a run in the WFTDA playoffs last year, just took a while to get warmed up. Toronto took their first lead of the game on a power jam 5 minutes in, part of a string of five straight lead jammers that would give the home team an 18-8 lead. As befitting a team that practices together on a regular basis, Toronto’s transitions were quicker, keeping them a step ahead, and the cohesiveness of some of the lines could not be matched (Nasher the Smasher and Dyna Hurtcha were every bit the equal of Murphy and Wylde—and when forming a line with Renny Rumble and offensive maven Jubilee, were nearly impenetrable). But Team Ontario was coming together as the game wore on as well, and some phenomenal individual work from the likes of RVRG’s Margaret Choke and Tri-City’s Fox Smoulder in the pack and Rideau Valley’s Soul Rekker with the star, kept them in it. Ontario drew back-to-back power jams late in the first half to keep it tight at the break, with the hosts clinging to an 84-66 lead.
Despite it being an exhibition, CN Power came out to play in the second half. They tightened their jammer rotation, and actually opened the half with Dyna Hurtcha on the jam line for a 4-0 start. Two of the 8 Team Canada members in the game, Rainbow Fight—making her debut with Toronto’s top team—and Bala Reina, went back-to-back-to-back to help pad CN Power’s lead, which they extended to 99-68 after only five minutes of the second. While Rainbow especially, was a standout with some phenomenal jamming, it was relentless pack work from Toronto’s deep blocker group that proved to be the difference. A well-executed 20 point power jam 10 minutes in seemed to give Toronto an insurmountable lead (129-73). However, Team Ontario wasn’t quite done. Continuing a story that had been playing out all night, Hannah Murphy and Leigh Wylde continued their excellent work together and managed to take a few rounds of a game-long battle with Toronto jammer Rainbow Fight. With five minutes to go, Soul Rekker picked up 20 points on a power jam to pull Ontario back within reach, 184-149, but a few strong late-game jams by Dusty (who seemed to get stronger as the game went on) helped seal the deal for the home team who held on for the thrilling 59 point win.
In the end, the extraordinary level of play provided a fantastic showcase of the level of roller derby in this province. Not only did the game feature Ontario’s best, Canada’s national team was well represented as well. Three members of Team Ontario (Hannah Murphy, USS DentHerPrize and Soul Rekker) and five members of CN Power (Bala Reina, Dusty, Dyna Hurtcha, Nasher the Smasher and Rainbow Right) are all on the team that will represent Canada at the 2014 World Cup in Dallas. Based on this small display, things are looking good for our national team.
BRUISERS WIN CONSOLATION BRACKET AT B-CUP
Far south of the border, ToRD’s B travel team, the Bay Street Bruisers, headed to Bloomington, Indiana, to take part in the 8-team invitational, the B-Cup, featuring B-travel teams from Naptown, Minnesota, Madison, Cincinnati, Nashville, Tri-City and the hosts Bleeding Heartland. The Bruisers are coming off of a very active off-season that saw a massive reordering of the roster as a new generation of ToRD skaters join the B-team. With that in mind, it was a very fresh, very new and inexperienced group that took to the track at Cardiac Arena for their opening game of the tournament. Facing an experienced Nashville team, the new-look Bruisers were simply overwhelmed in the early going. While there were flashes of excellence (particularly late in the game), the Bruisers couldn’t get much going in the 241-89 loss against a tight Nashville team that would end up going all the way to the final, where they would lose to Mad Rollin 203-147.
That sent the Bruisers to Sunday’s consolation bracket with a chance to play for 5th place, an opportunity that would not be wasted. It seemed to just be a matter of gaining track experience for the team, as they looked completely different in their second game of the tournament. With the time to bond, the Bruisers responded and gave a hint of what is to come for 2014. They crushed the hosts Bleeding Heartland 378-49 (the largest differential on the weekend, and the second highest point total) a score that could have been even higher had the Bruisers not expanded their jammer rotation to include virtually everyone on the bench late in the game as they tried to preserve energy for the following contest. They continued to roll in the consolation final, facing off against Cincinnati. It would be a significantly tougher test, but their pack defense (which improved most notably over the course of the three games) was up for the challenge. Up 117-68 at half, it was a sequence at the 25-minute mark of the second that truly put the game away.
With the score 118-81 and Cincinnati charging, the Bruisers gave up a power jam. But some smothering power kill defense limited the damage to five points, and on the following jam, the Bruisers nabbed a power jam of their own and made it count, with Sneaky Dee picking up 20 points to increase the lead to 148-86. It would prove to be the defining sequence of the game as Cinci was never able to recover, and the Bruisers held on for the 243-115 win to earn 5th place and cap a successful weekend.
***Also a big shout out to Tri-City’s Plan B who took part in the tournament as well (they lost their games against Naptown and Cincinnati). And finally, congratulations to Forest City’s Timber Rollers who hosted Ann Arbour in their first ever WFTDA home game (and second WFTDA sanctioned bout). Ann Arbour took it 228-159.