Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Season 6, Bout 2 preview

On Saturday, diehard Minnesota RollerGirls fans and newcomers alike will rush the doors of the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium to watch the next step in the evolution of derby in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Our first home bout rocked the derby world as the Rockits - reigning two-time champions - were laid low by the Atomic Bombshells. The Rockits must now win Saturday's bout - a repeat match of last year's season championship against the Garda Belts - to control their destiny. The Dagger Dolls are in a similar fix; their nine-point loss to the Gardas in January means that they must win against a transformed Bombshell team to have a strong chance to acquire the Golden Skate. We'll talk more on the win-loss situation in a moment, but let's look at Saturday's games.

The Atomic Bombshells (1-0) v the Dagger Dolls (0-1)

Fresh from their victorious confrontation against the Rockits, it is the Atomic Bombshells who have the advantage. As has been stated before, many of our Bombshells benefited greatly from summer conditioning playing with the All-Stars, and now the nimble orange stars must take on some of the fastest jammers and hardest hitters on eight wheels...the Dagger Dolls. The Dolls had a similar upswell of awesome from the summer season, but narrowly fell to the Gardas. Both January games were won or lost by less than ten points, a testament to how close the four teams are to one another in skill.

If you're new to the game or couldn't make it to the first home bout, I recommend you watch for the following:

- Both teams have jammers who can consistently break past the pack and hold control of the clock. In the last bout, Bombshell L'exi-Cuter went 10 for 10 on lead jams, Venus Thightrap went 3 for 4, Mae Gusta 3 for 5, and the Dagger Dolls' Psycho Novia went 6 for 7.
- Amidst the heavy point scoring of the Bombshells (a combined 73 points from the three just mentioned), it's easy to miss the efforts of Psycho. She doesn't often take chances, and her attention to the opposing jammer is without peer. If she's gotten the lead, she will shut down the jam the moment that her opponent is in contention to score, even if she's only gotten a couple of points. That sort of tight control assisted in keeping the Gardas to a score of fifty-nine. The Bombshells struggled a bit more with this in the last game, occasionally allowing the canny Rockits to sneak from behind and burst through, evening or besting the lead jammer's point differential.
- Sinaminn was greatly missed in the first bout; now freshly back from derby and vacation abroad, we'll see even more ferocity from the Dagger Doll front.
- If you're a stats wonk, it's hard not to notice the efforts of the Bombshells' second-year veteran jammer, L'exi-Cuter. In her ten lead jams, against the best that the Rockits' red walls had to offer, she scored slightly more than half of the Bombshells' points (43 of 78). In a forty-minute match, L'exi scored a rare offensive double-double; double-digit score and double-digit lead jams. L'exi doesn't just find space on the track...she establishes it and defends it as she speeds through the pack.
- The Dagger Doll defense didn't just do ok in the January bout; they were able to hold every jammer outside of Suzie Smashbox to five points or less. When you're dealing with vets like Rumblebee and Anita Spankston, that's pretty damn impressive. Watch for Sinaminn and Candi Pain to escort players to the outside of turns every chance they get, and Shiver Me Kimbers and Wonderbroad to send Bombshells tumbling through the inside to draw cutting penalties.
- Sparkle Ninja might argue this, but she had a remarkable game against the Garda Belts. While only jamming 3 for 7, she scored 28 of the Dolls' 50 points. She might have scored more; Sparkle got rocked by a bad decision to re-enter the pack after a penalty as a jammer before the pack had passed, sending her right back to the box in a key moment of the second half. Sparkle Ninja is a fast, ruthless threat as a jammer and a blocker; Bombshell fans, don't expect her to give your team the same opportunity.
- We at last get to see the rookie Bombshell Madame de Stompadour skate. Stompadour, last seen by the public during the Brawl of America winning a Queen of the Rink crown, has finally worked through an early-season injury. Best to her in her season debut, as well as to her teammate BOOMbay Safire, now out for the rest of the season after a freak injury in practice. BOOM...get well, dammit.
- Umm. Don't know how else to put this. Dagger Dude. Keytars rule.
- No jammer works alone, and it was clear that Bombshells were repeating to themselves, "I will take care of my jammer..." before the January bout for weeks. No team seems more concentrated on watching their jammers' back than the Bombshells. Whether Flora's front blocking, Skullateral Damage's presence of mind, or Diamond Rough's holding entire blocking lines inside, the Bombshells are shifting away from a strategy of sticking the opposing jammer and towards getting that lead jam and control of the clock.

The Garda Belts (1-0) v the Rockits (0-1)

The fifth season championship grudge match is days away, and the fans of the women in green must be counting the hours. The Gardas were soundly defeated by a dominant Rockit defense (92-31 in the championship), but it is a new year and both teams have evolved into something very unlike last year's rosters.

Let's get the discussion of Suzie Smashbox out of the way. Suzie put up fifty of the fifty-nine points that won the game against the Dagger Dolls. She puts on the star every other jam. No team in the league depends on a single jammer more than the Gardas. The Rockits have found ways in the past to shut that lightning-fast woman down, but it all comes down to keeping her from hitting that mind-searing top gear of hers. What's worse for those attempting to contain that speed, it appears that her blockers are investing a lot of time to get her through the denser packs of this season...not to repeatedly beat upon the baldly obvious, but any player wanting to hold back Suzie is going to have Tiki harassing her every single foot of the track.

And this bout, it looks like the jammer cavalry is arriving in force. MNRG cofounder (and damn fine jammer) Rolls Wilder will be lacing up against the Rockits, Angelfire is back from an injury sustained while playing a Mid-Iowan league, and will almost certainly be putting her speed to work. With Rumblebee, Cassie Rolle, and Anita Spankston in play as well, we may see a lot of sharing of that star...and that might be smart; the Rockit defense that held Suzie to under thirty points in the 2009 championship is largely intact.

Harmony Killerbruise? #2 overall scorer in the 2009 season? Still wearing Rockit red. Harmony, Abbie Mischief, and Scarmen Hellectra all scored double-digits in their losing bout against the Bombshells. Although Scarmen plays blocker for the All-Stars, we may see more of this woman at the jammer line come Saturday...although Scar's speed might be more useful in blocking Suzie and Rumblebee through the pack. There is also a sizable risk of Harmony pulling one-shot jamming tactics like her much-lauded negative pass on the Sioux Falls Rollerdollz in December. If Suzie is the speed queen of the MNRG, Harmony leads the league in strategic jamming. In a one-on-one situation - outside of the 20 foot engagement zone of the pack - Killerbruise is to be feared.

If I haven't gotten this across well enough, I think we're going to see a much more even match than last year. The Garda Belts have a remarkably deep blocking staff; Tiki Torture, Hanna Belle Lector, and co-captain Citizen Pain all have the skill and the endurance to play roller derby at the speed of the Rockits, and they will be joined in kind by Garda ne'er-do-wells Angelfire (the Gardas would be foolish to keep her as a pure jammer if she's got her stamina back) and Optimiss Crime. The Rockits are full of surprises, but January saw them still working out their sixth-season style. Stay tuned, folks. This one's going to be fun. close, let's look at the win-loss situation. it sits, if both the Bombshells and the Gardas win their respective game on Saturday, it will be Orange versus Green for the Golden Skate. (A Rockit fan out there just fainted, and we apologize to her family.) If either the Rockits or the Dagger Dolls lose again, that team will be out of the running to play for the championship.

If both win? Folks, if the Rockits and the Dollys win, the March bout may be the most exciting home game bout we've ever had...the winners of each game in March (Rockit/Dolls and ABS/Gardas) would play for the Golden Skate. Any of the four teams could move forward.

Oh, and one last thing. It is possible for a team to win two out of three games and still not advance if three teams do it. If teams end with the same win/loss record, the decision of who goes forward to the season championship is made on overall point-differential throughout the season. Got that? Good. Because it took me two hours and a protractor to get it all straight.

We will see you Saturday, folks. Tickets are selling fast...the fastest I've seen for ages. This season is shaping up to be the best yet. Don't miss a single hit.

Writing from where all the women are strong, all the men are accessories, and all the children turn left,

-Garrison Killer


Kim said...

Garrison, I have to say, you are awesome. We are very lucky to have you.

SMK #667
Dagger Dolls

Chinese Take-Out said...

It was hard to watch from the center while tracking penalties but March is when I'll be lacing up these ol skates and suting up that dusty orange uniform. It's gonna be fun.