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.
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.
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, 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.
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.