Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Everyone gone? Just you and me? [Not for publication, Soy]

Whew.  All right, folks.  Those of you who actually check this site for the early version of most of my articles (I think there's about a dozen or so of you), thank you so much for reading and saying hello at the bouts.

And I realize that it's a little weird...but I want to say a few thank-yous, if you'll allow me.

To those on the teams and the volunteer staff who've fed me useful information, I surely owe you a drink.  Soy, Frau, Scarmen, MTR, Diamond, Citizen, 'Hertz, Apron, Umpire, hell, anybody who's grabbed the guy in the brown suit and told him things...thank you. Everything that you tell me about what I'm seeing makes it just that much easier.  

Flip...sweet mercy, man.  For those of you who don't know Our Man Flip, Flip joined the stats table last year after accumulating a remarkable amount of information on Season Four that resulted in a brilliant statistical analysis for the season championship.  We got him working for us and he's been dropping off stat sheets in my mailbox after every bout to make sure I get things right.  All the mistakes are mine, not his.  Thank you, sir.

And oh yes...I have an editor.  Every bit of thanks to my Bombshell-lovin' missus, Sherry...she gets first crack at the recaps and usually calls me out on something that just doesn't parse about five times a writeup.  If you like the way I write, thank her for any consistency that I show.

Finally...Mitzi Massacre, if you're reading, thanks for giving me the job.  I'm not sure you quite intended so much writing from me, but it's been fun.  

If you don't see me sooner, you get the dubious honor of watching me running around at the Brawl, when I'll be taking a break from writing 2000+ word diatribes on MNRG and running...ummm...the live blog and Twitter feed.  And writing the BoA website.

Ok, so I'm not really taking a break.  

Take care, all.

By the bye, if anyone has a line on cheap Black and Red flame 'Vogs...well, I'm working on a new outfit for next year.  Yes, I know cheap 'Vogs are basically an oxymoron.  But hey, it's worth a shot.  Let me know. -gk

Rockits Repeat! Rockits Repeat!

For a year, the Golden Skate has stood proudly in the Rockit clubhouse (somewhere, it is rumored, deep in a bunker beneath Roy Wilkins Auditorium); a testament to the hard work of recovering it from the Atomic Bombshells in 2008.  With the new year, the Rockits have found themselves defending against the Garda Belts; those who would end the hard-fought Rockit streak and take the Skate for themselves.  Saturday brought the Battle of the Broads; the moment where it would all go down.  Fans came out in droves to see the match...as well as to see the Dagger Dolls take on the young, brash Atomic Bombshells.  With two matches, four teams, and one Golden Skate to award, the doors opened early, and the fifth annual season championship bout got underway.

After a quad rugby ("Murderball" for the initiated) exhibition, fans got to their feet for the initial consolation match.  The Atomic Bombshells and Dagger Dolls were introduced together in a dance-off to Michael Jackson's "Beat It."  Dagger Doll Mary Tyler Roar and Atomic Bombshell Venus Thightrap started the match off; Mary gained the first lead, slicing just past Chinese Takeout and Diamond Rough to score four points while Doll blockers Wonderbroad and Gogo Galore kept her opponent contained.  L'Exi-Cuter got sent to the box in the next jam as Psycho Novia - looking less and less like a rookie every match - rode the outside of the pack for four points, then called off the jam to trap L'Exi. 8-0 Dagger Dolls.

Doll jammer Roxanne Rolls stepped to the line unopposed and picked up the lead - but deft blocking sent her to the back of the pack before she could start her scoring run.  Meanwhile, L'Exi flew from the box and scored four.  Mitzi Massacre followed up with four points for the Bombshells while her teammates L'Exi and Takeout wall-blocked opposng jammer Sweet Justice.  Dolls took a timeout to reassess, but over the next three jams, the Atomic Bombshells scored another twelve.  The Bombshells held back the opposing jammers by using the last blocker to slow the Dolly jammer on the turns, while their teammates scrambled ahead of the jammer.  Bombshells 20 - Dagger Dolls 8 with eight minutes to go.

Mary Tyler Roar charged back, scoring a grand slam while Sweet Justice contained her opponent L'Exicuter.  Venus Thightrap took the next lead against Roxanne Rolls, but got sent to the box...giving Roxanne a power jam opportunity.  Several other Bombshells followed Venus into the box, and Roxanne sprinted through a light Bombshell pack to score a grand slam-plus.  Doll jammer Psycho Novia scored six to close the period.  Skating against Bombshell Jocelyn D'Jewels, Psycho took the lead while her teammates Lydia Punch and Sparkle Ninja repeatedly sent Jocelyn to the back of the pack.  Tearing around into the pack for a scoring run, Psycho audibled a knee-drop that took the Bombshells by surprise, shot her through the pack a second time, and back around.

At the end of the first half, the Dolls played penalty mistakes by the Bombshells to their advantage and took a firm lead in the game.  The Bombshells were playing a steady game, but each trip to the penalty box leeched their early momentum.  Dolls 28, Bombshells 21.

The Atomic Bombshells came roaring back to start the second half.  Mitzi Massacre - five year veteran and Bombshell captain - showed her team how it's done as she sped through the initial pack.  Off of some great Bombshell defensive screening, Mitzi caught her opponents napping as she passed the pack three times to score ten points and regain the lead while her opponent - Mary Tyler Roar - was sent to the box.  Stepping to the jammer line unopposed, L'Exi-Cuter took advantage of the end of the power jam off of Mary and scored seven points.  Mary couldn't catch a break and returned to the box shortly after L'Exi's first scoring run; L'Exi joined her off of an illegal back block, ending the run in a jammerless jam.  Bombshells 38-Dolls 28.  

L'Exi and Mary's trackmates Venus Thightrap and Sparkle Ninja grabbed the jammer stars from the penalty box and played the next jam out.  Sparkle took the lead, speeding past Skullateral Damage in the front, with Venus just behind her.  Sparkle got taken out in the back of the pack and could not call off the jam before Venus snuck through the inside for four.  In the next jam, Roxanne Rolls broke past L'Exi-Cuter's blocking and charged through to get the lead; just as she scored four points, Mary Tyler Roar went down, favoring her knee.  The Dolls called for the jam to end, and attendants brought MTR gingerly to the back (for those concerned, Mary suffered a strained ligament.  Play resumed with Dolly blocker extraordinaire Wonderbroad facing off against Bombshell rookie Tara Skatesov at the jammer line.  On her very first jam of the season, Tara tore through the Doll pack like depleted uranium through a paper bag; despite several Dols earning penalties in their attempts to stop Tara (as well as Wonderbroad), the Bombshell scored a double slam.  The Dolls called a timeout; with eleven minutes left in the season, the Dolls were behind 52-32.

Continuing the Bombshell penchant for diversity at the jammer line, Calamity Crush got called up next to jam aganst Sparkle Ninja.  Calamity burst past Sparkle and a very small pack (the penalties were flying at this point of the bout) to take the lead while Sparkle got called to the box for an illegal push.  With Calamity's captain - Misfit Maiden - throwing interference at every opportunity, Calamity scored a second consecutive double slam for the women in orange.  Bombshell CleoSPLATra took to the line as Sparkle Ninja continued to sit in the box.  Cleo did not get the lead, but scored three before Sparkle burst out of the box to become lead jammer and called off the jam.  

With only eight minutes left to play, every jam counted; the ease with which the Dolls scored points at the end of the first half had evaporated, and it seemed even dumb luck was beginning to fail them; Scootaloo broke through to take the lead for the Dollys for four points, only to be stopped by a toe-stop on the track.  End of jam.  Sparkle Ninja and Venus Thightrap each scored four in the next jam, but Sparkle got sent to the box again as the jam concluded.  With a full minute of power jam opportunity, the Bombshells sent L'Exi-Cuter to the line.  The Dolls could not stop the notorious L'Exi-Cuter as Misfit Maiden and Diamond Rough opened up the road for their jammer to score ten unanswered points.  Roxanne Rolls returned with a blinding double slam of her own, but the final whistle blew, giving the Bombshells their second victory of the year.  Final score: Atomic Bombshells 79 - Dagger Dolls 50.

The Bombshells scored four double slams in the second half, each time off of a power jam.  Between the time it takes to start a new jam (about twenty seconds a jam) and the time spent in the penalty box by the Doll jammers, the Dolls only had about eight minutes of time to score points.  But while the Atomic Bombshells won the previous bout by holding on to the end, the women in orange squeezed advantage from every moment that they could to pull more points from the match.  The Atomic Bombshells are back in an all-new form.  Other teams had best beware.

Season Championship: Rockits v Garda Belts

For those unable to join us at the Roy on Saturday night, the audience clearly showed their allegiances as the season championship bout.  Banners waved as fans came in their team's colors, and owing to the Rockits' dominance in the league, many from the Dolls and the Bombshells donned green.  Garda Belt shirts ran low at the merch booth, and the crowd exploded with the sound of the Garda bagpipe anthem.  And yet, that same crowd cheered on the Rockits moments later as they came to the track.  Sides were drawn on Saturday, but every knew that it would last only until a team raised that Golden Skate.

The Rockits had lost Dudezilla, co-captain and jammer, to a cruciate ligament tear in March.  Meanwhile, the Garda roster added another face to fans of previous seasons; after a lengthy shoulder rehab, the green speedster Angelfire returned to the Garda Belts along with Bombshell loan Lizzy the Axe.  So, with a slight change in lineup, the two teams hit the track for their final forty minutes of the season.

Captains of their respective teams, Garda Suzie Smashbox and Rockit Harmony Killerbruise, took to the line for the initial jam.  Suzie shot past the Rockit pack and took lead with Harmony breaking out a half-lap later.  Suzie scored four as both Scarmen Hellectra and Jawbreaker were sent to the penalty box.  Substituting for Jawbreaker, Rockit Soylent Mean jammed against Angelfire.  Again, the Gardas took the lead; this time, Soylent escaped the pack simultaneously and held Angelfire back from accelerating, forcing Angel to call off the jam.  Harmony returned to the line against Lizzy the Axe; Harmony took the lead and scored three points as Soylent Mean and Rockit badass Vuedoo Prodigy laid into Lizzy in the back of the pack.  Suzie became lead in the following jam, but called it off as Jawbreaker charged from behind her.  With five minutes spent, the Gardas had taken the lead with a very, very low four points to the Rockits' three.

Play screeched to a halt in the following jam as Garda Belt blocker Savage Animal fell and stayed down.  Players dropped to a knee, and long minutes passed as our EMTs took care of Savage, finally carted her off in a wheelchair.  As of this writing, Savage Animal is recovering from surgery for multiple broken bones and is resting comfortably.  We wish Savage, Dudezilla, and Mary speedy recoveries; if you want to send along your best wishes, e-mail info@mnrollergirls.com.

Lizzy the Axe squared off against Jawbreaker as the game began anew, with Jawbreaker starting well behind the jammer line.  'Breaker timed a rolling start perfectly and flew past Lizzy, gliding through the inside of the back corner to claim the lead. 'Breaker's teammate Vuedoo Prodigy swept up Lizzy and put her in the back of the pack while Jawbreaker scored three.  Angelfire tried her luck against Harmony Killerbruise, but Soylent Mean and Honeydew Felon isolated the Garda Belt jammer from her teammates.  Meanwhile, Harmony squeaked through the Garda defense as Trinity Knox ran interference on Garda sweeper Tiki Torture and scored.  The Gardas called a timeout; they had not scored since the very first jam and Rockits had suddenly gone ahead.  Jawbreaker increased the lead by four in the next jam, Rockits 20 - Gardas 4.  

For the next two jams, the score stayed the same as the Garda Belt jammer broke ahead, but the Rockits either called off the jam or booty-blocked the jam into meaninglessness.  The following jam, Honeydew Felon once again contained Angelfire in the pack as Harmony Killerbruise ran wild, scoring eight points.  Scrambled by the Rockits' defense, Lizzy the Axe also spent the bulk of the next jam picking herself up in the back as the Rockit walls continued to stymie the Garda Belts.  Having taken enough, Lizzy threw an illegal hit on Jawbreaker and got sent to Battering Gram's Kitchen for her troubles.  Meanwhile, Jawbreaker took the power jam opportunity to score a double slam; Rockits 38-4 at halftime.

The Rockits dominated the first half. The Garda jammers kept running into Scarmen Hellectra (or as Eve L Hazard once put it, the "telescoping ass of Scarmen Hellectra, focused on the jammers' every move"), or the stiff work of Rizzo, Frau Scientits and Killahertz, or the back-blocking of Meshugenough and Trinity Knox. Their offense had no clear route to the front of the pack.  However, the Gardas weren't making it easy for the Rockits.  The red jammers got stopped in their tracks up front where Citizen Pain and Hanna Belle Lector lurked, while Tiki Torture and Optimiss Crime provided both hits and lane clearances for their jammers.  Despite that, the Gardas desperately needed to start scoring.

But if the Gardas needed points, the Rockits wanted to end any hope of comeback immediately.  The second half began with Harmony on the line and Lizzy the Axe waiting out the remainder of her penalty.  Rumblebee came to the front line and stepped over it as the whistle blew to get sent to the penalty box, clearing her of minor penalties when she would return as a jammer.  But with both Rumblebee and Lizzy down with penalties, Harmony ran roughshod.  The Rockits slowed as their jammer engaged the Gardas at the front.  With the bulk of the pack so far behind, the Rockits forced Gardas Tiki Torture and Citizen Pain to stop their chase.  The Rockits repeated the slowdown to send Harmony through her first scoring pass and Harmony just kept piling on the points, scoring fourteen the first jam. Rockits 52-4.

The next three jams were all jammer speed with the Rockits in control.  With over forty points between the teams, Jawbreaker and Harmony took the lead and sapped precious time away from the Gardas, scoring five unanswered points in the process.  Garda Belt Rumblebee took on Harmony next and finally put points up... but Harmony scored even more.  The referees sent much of Rumblebee's defensive line out on elbowing penalties and illegal contact from behind, so Harmony scored another fourteen point jam by slicing chunks out of the remainder of the Garda pack.  Rockits 71 - Gardas 8.

The Gardas began a brief rally as Suzie Smashbox jinked past Honeydew Felon in the next jam, took the lead, and scored four points while Citizen Pain stopped her opponent Jawbreaker.  Both scored four, but the Gardas began playing their own brand of containment for the next few jams.  Rumblebee scored three despite takedowns and stiff blocking from Rockits Frau Scientits and Killahertz, while Optimiss Crime broke Harmony's concentration.  Lizzy took two as Rockits visited the penalty box, and Suzie scored nine points off of a Harmony Killerbruise-fueled power jam.  Rockits 75 - Gardas 26.  

While the Gardas scored fourteen unanswered points in three jams, the women in green could not make the turnaround they needed.  Jawbreaker answered back with an eight point jam, and though both Suzie and Lizzy would score in the final two jams, Jawbreaker - top scorer in the hometeam league - put up nine more points to bring the game to its conclusion, Rockits 92, Garda Belts 31.

There was no doubt that the Rockits would play well this season; with a returning lineup (many of whom worked with one another through the summer as part of the All-Stars) and a team with a single end in mind, they played a type of derby that has not yet been defeated in Minnesota.  With the summer break coming and many players hungry to chase after the Rockits, we will see what is in store for the four teams of the Minnesota RollerGirls in the fall.  Congratulations to the 2008-9 champions of the Minnesota RollerGirls, the Rockits!

Ladies and gentlemen, keep your eyes on the Minnesota RollerGirls website for updates from the All-Star season, results from the MNRG Wheelie awards, and all the news about the upcoming North Central Regionals...the Brawl of America!  We'll have updates on our website, Twitter (@MNRG), Facebook, Myspace, and of course our e-mail list, the Derby Dish.  We will see you at the Roy in September.

Reporting for the MNRG where all the women are strong, all the men are accessories, and all the children turn left,
-Garrison Killer

Monday, April 6, 2009

Battle of the Broads preview

As the Minnesota RollerGirls prepare for the April 11th season championship and fans prepare for their last taste of derby at the Roy for five months, it's time to take a look at the season to see what's brought us to this moment.

The hometeam season began, in fact, during the summer where our four teams sent their best to play other leagues from across the nation.  During that period, an all-star team heavy with Rockits and Garda Belts fought the best and brought home hard-won experience to share with the MNRG teams.  With that breadth of derby wisdom gained from the summer, it isn't too surprising that the Garda Belts and the Rockits have performed so well this season.  They will play on Saturday night for the MNRG's championship trophy, the Golden Skate.

The Rockits - well...what can you say?  The Rockits have played with one another for three seasons, and their system works.  Between the mobile walls created by the front four, a vigilant sweeper in the back that breaks off and hunts when a jammer comes lapping in, and methodical jams that turn into double slams when an opposing jammer goes to the box, the Red Menace hasn't been beaten for almost two full seasons.  

Their opponents, the Garda Belts, play a different game when they are at their best, and they've played that game for most of the season.  Defeating their opponents in their first three games, the Gardas are far more likely to work on opponents in the middle of the pack without backup.  This forces them to hit very hard and accurately.  In the front, the Gardas have formed wedges of one or two in front of opposing jammers scrambling to pass as they wait for Tiki Torture or another of the blockers to send the jammer out of bounds.  

And in the back?  Until last month, it was Suzie Smashbox playing at least every other jam and stealing points every moment she was out there.  However, as the season championship picture firmed up, it was clear that another Garda jammer was needed.  With the loss of Demora Liza and Angelfire in rehab, injured Atomic Bombshell Lizzy the Axe stepped up, taking on Garda Belt green to even up the sides. 

Even so, the Garda Belts must deal with the Rockits' pre-eminent jammer pair.  When playing tight, the Rockits always go to Harmony Killerbruise and Jawbreaker - #1 and #2 in scoring for the entire league.  Jawbreaker alone handed in three triple slams (fifteen point jams) in March.  The Gardas must find a way to stop them, and they will need to put jammers up against the Rockits that can smash through the Rockit wall.  Rockit fanboys and girls?  Garda Belt groupies?  Now's the time to cheer your team on.

Now, as to the players in the consolation bout:

The fifth season of the MNRG has been a pregnant pause for the Dagger Dolls.  A hard-hitting team with some remarkable jamming talent, the Dolls lost several of their players from the very start of the season...and the team has had an inconsistent roster throughout 08-09. This particularly hurt their blocking game. They've lost every game thus far, but their match in March against the Atomic Bombshells showed those glimmers of spectacular play that Doll fans love to see.  In the second half, the blocking staff suddenly gelled into a single unit of pain as Dolly veterans and rookies alike slowed, stopped, and stomped on Bombshells.  

As for those Atomic Bombshells, their trajectory has been rather different than the Dolls.  Just as in the third season when the ABS rebuilt themselves into a superteam of veterans, the fifth season Bombshells radically changed their lineup.  They drafted in rookie after rookie to build a team whose abilities will surely start to flourish next season.  The team also took on a new, egalitarian flair as many, many players got opportunities to shine on the track.  However, the downside of trying out so much that's new against other, more established teams and tactics meant that it wasn't until their March bout - against the Dolls - that the Bombshells finally won a game with the new lineup.  Using a wide assortment of competent scorers, the Bombshells built a significant lead in the first half that they were able to hold onto throughout the last twenty minutes.

And so in this final game for these two teams, will the Atomic Bombshells find a coherent strategy against the Dagger Dolls, or will they just throw the kitchen sink at them?  Can the Dolls press their blocking advantage and up their jamming threat with a full complement of scorers, or will their pack melt away as Cleo, Venus, Mae, Mitzi, Jocelyn, and L'Exi all take their turns at the jammer line?  This match could go either way and will almost certainly come down to the final few jams.

MNRG fans, you've been with us throughout this season, and we want to thank you for your dedication to our teams.  We will see you at the Roy this Saturday as we crown this year's champions!