Sunday, March 28, 2010

Preview for Hometeam Championship 2010 pt 2

Countdown to The Bone of Contention

Third-place bout preview
Garrison Killer, League reporter

We explored the ins and outs of the April 3rd MNRG season championship in the previous article.  Now our attention turns to the Garda Belts and the Dagger Dolls, who will fight it out for third place.

In 2009, I wrote that the Dagger Dolls were in the midst of a pregnant pause. That pause has now lengthened into a multi-year slump that has puzzled players, refs, and fans alike.  Candi Pain and Sweet Justice, co-captains of the Dollys, selected fast, eager jammers to fill the holes left by a swath of last year's retirees and blockers that have already proven themselves to cause some panic in the pack.  The Dolls have had fresh injections of strong, fast talent each year...but they have not yet been able to focus that energy into the team at large on bout nights.  They have lost their last ten games, and you must believe that they want to finish this season on a win.

The Garda Belts' record over the past two years has been more storied.  They strode into last year's finals off of strong performances by their captains Suzie Smashbox and Citizen Pain as well as a pack of veteran players whose skills had been honed by all-star play.  The Rockits pushed back and took the win. Since that bout, the Gardas have only scored one victory.  Considering that victory was against the Dagger Dolls (59-50), we should ask whether this match will simply be a repeat performance of that narrow win.  

Before you answer that question, there is one big problem that will play a big part in this matchup.  This season has been absolutely brutal to the Garda Belt roster.  While Angelfire may have returned to the active list, we have lost rookie AliSin Chains to Chicago.  A few Gardas are playing injured, and we just received word that Damnzelsly - a new, strong blocker with the brains to be where the action is - has been taken from the roster due to a serious leg injury.  Rita Rawkus and Savage Animal have sat out the entire season due to leg problems.  In addition, several players have had to miss bouts due to obligations outside of the derby; remember - the MNRG is a volunteer organization.  Women play for the love of the sport, but sometimes life gets in the way.  The Gardas may be playing a smallish core of vets along with rookies Stacy Wrekt and Cassie Rolle.  The women in green will probably have a very short roster.

That said, let's talk about what we hope to see in the 3rd place bout:

* Cleaner jams from the Dollys.  In January's bout between these two teams, the Dollys kept a far better head about jams without penalties than we saw against the Rockits.  As the season has progressed, two new jammers - Killamon Jaro and Patently Offensive - have begun to show ability to stay out of trouble.  As always, the problem of players in penalty trouble is that playing at the jammer line risks ceding a power jam to the opposing team.  The Dollys must score and keep on the track for them to break the losing streak.
* More jamming from the rookies on both sides.  The Dollys drafted in some of the fastest, brightest players from this season's class of new blood.  They've been playing MNRG roller derby for almost a full year, and this may be the time to let them loose.  All of them will still need a hand for their initial pass through the pack...but what jammer doesn't?  Meanwhile, keep your eye on Cassie Rolle of the Garda Belts.  Coach Seamonster and the Garda captains have slowly been opening the lid on this agile rookie all season.  She's been training as a pure jammer and the use of her as a scorer instead of Citizen Pain or Tiki Torture will keep the front of the pack strong by keeping their fast blockers chasing Dollys.  These players are the future of their respective teams; it's time for them to claim their spot.
* Suzie freakin' Smashbox.  How long have we been talking about this fluid, Green jammer?  Since season 3, Garda captain Suzie has been tearing up the track and every team that has been victorious against the Gardas has had to come up with a strategy for dealing with her.  The Bombshells played the same pack of power blockers against her almost every jam, while the Rockits boxed up her trailblazers through the pack (Tiki Torture and Hanna Belle Lector).  Suzie has consistently scored the lioness' share of Garda points; the Dollys must find ways to close down that powerful, sprinting stride.
* Smart, modern derby.  Just because these two teams have had one victory lap between them throughout the season doesn't mean they're oblivious to how the game is played.  The problem is execution.  Both teams are ready to showcase their skill for the Roy audience.  The Dolls?  They're finding ways to block out defenders and move their jammer through more quickly.  If you use strong hitters like Sparkle Ninja, Wonderbroad, Buffy, and Sinnamin, the Dollys could have walls in the back that will delay Gardas for precious seconds...or even the whole jam.  The Garda Belts' absolutely relentless recycling of the pack (particularly speed-skating heavies Citizen Pain and Tiki Torture) has been very effective - and Green players able to expand that strategy will make it that much more difficult for Dolly jammers.

This bout may also come down to a race.  The Garda Belts play a slightly faster game than the Dagger Dolls.  If the Gardas are given the ability to speed up the pack or to change up the pace, the Dolly defense could fall afoul of penalties as they try to hit, maneuver, and block at speed.  

In terms of numbers, the loss of so many Gardas over this season means more players in Green will be skating many, many jams.  Nothing kills a clean hit like exhaustion, and the refs will be watching.  Conversely, some have mentioned the large Dagger Doll roster as a point of weakness; oft-recycled players don't get as many chances to coalesce.

Two final roster notes: the Gardas have received a freshly-minted player from the derby-crazy Pacific Northwest.  Folks, please welcome BethAnne Destruction, a former Jet City Rollergirls player, to the Garda Belts.  Sadly, Dagger Doll blocker Shiv & Let Die will not be on the track on Saturday; she's been playing injured recently and will not be part of the final bout.  Shiv, get well quickly; the MNRG's 7th home season begins in October...and we want to see you in the pack.

That's it.  All he wrote.  Now, get those tickets.  There are a little over a thousand left at the time of this writing, only available now through Ticketmaster and the Roy box office.  First two hundred at the door on April 3rd will get get a free bout t-shirt, and let me tell you, folks...this one's gorgeous.  Get in line early, pick up your t-shirt, take your seat, and join us as we conclude the sixth season of the Minnesota RollerGirls.

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

Preview for Hometeam Championship 2010 pt 1

Countdown to The Bone of Contention

Hometeam Championship preview
Garrison Killer, League reporter

The Minnesota RollerGirls conclude their sixth historic season at the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium on April 3, 2010. Like every other bout this season, we will bring you two matches of intense, edge-of-the-seat action...but our season's end is special. Our top two home teams will play for the opportunity to raise the Golden Skate - our championship trophy - on the track of the Roy. Our other two teams will compete for the honor of third place.

The language of sport is hyperbole. We speak of the greatest, the fastest, the strongest, the most clever. In the three years that I've written about the MNRG, I've shoehorned more than my share of adverbs into my commentaries. But I will tell you with utmost confidence that these matches will be the hardest-fought that you have yet seen in the Roy. Let's take a look at the first matchup so that you may judge for yourselves.

The Championship Bout - The Atomic Bombshells (3-0) v The Rockits (2-1)

Three years ago, the Atomic Bombshells brought together some of the very best players from across the league and went from last to first in a single season. They defeated the Rockits in the finals and claimed the championship in April of 2007. In the two seasons since, the Rockits have won the championship...first against the Dagger Dolls in the finals of 2008, then the Garda Belts in 09. In fact, the Rockits were not defeated a single time in the intervening years.

The red Rockits now must defend their title against the only team that has beaten them in the season championship. But while the legacy of the Bombshells during the finals of 2007 is written upon the Golden Skate, the orange-wearing ABS has far more recently defeated the Rockits. It was only in January that Misfit Maiden and Mitzi Massacre - co-captains and veterans of the '07 team - shocked the MNRG by breaking the Rockits' two-year streak, coming from behind and winning by two (78-76). The two teams now return to the track to play for the Golden Skate. there a little history between these teams? Yes...yes, there is.

Now, The Bombshells are undefeated this year - each bout won by 25 or fewer points. Victory for the Bombshells doesn't come from an onslaught of point-scoring; it comes from their defensive line making plays as offense. Don't believe me? If you look at the stats, the three top jammers for the team get lead at least 60% of the time (L'exi Cuter got it 78% of the time - 100% against the Rockits in their last meeting). While Mae and Venus and L'exi are all very, very good jammers, it's the way that their pack holds together and pushes them through that gets the lauds.

When the Bombshells get the jam, they control the one precious commodity in roller derby - the jam clock. A jam goes for two minutes...or whenever the lead jammer says it's time to stop. If you have the lead, you can score,  call off the jam and zero the jam clock before the opposing player can make a point. By holding the clock, the Bombshells have controlled the pace of the game all this season. It's an outrageous record; Bombshells controlled the jam almost two-thirds of every game.

Their opponents - the Rockits - have their own brand of derby play. Two strategies have unfolded from this year's play...they're almost polar opposites, but they've been effective:

*Hit out or trap players furthest in back - these are usually rookies or players that have recently fallen to a hit. If an opposing player goes down, that's one less player to have to pass for the jammer coming careening around. If a player is trapped, the Rockits can box up the player, hit the brakes, and form a pack...usually putting the opposition's other players far in front of that pack. A player twenty feet ahead of the pack cannot engage a jammer (making them completely uneffective as blockers), but there's an added risk. If the player turns around and skates back into the pack and makes contact with an opposing player, that's a penalty; it's called 'skating clockwise to block' and will generally have a player sent to the box. Crazy stuff, but very clever, and something of a tactical coup.
*Attack the strongest player on the team, whether blocker, pivot, or jammer. This sounds a little counterintuitive; here's an example to clarify. In Garda Belts v Rockits in February, a number of the women in red started to lay into Tiki Torture and Hanna Belle Lector instead of the jammer. Why? Well, in that game, Tiki and Hanna were making roads for their scorers to skate down. By neutralizing the trailblazer, the Rockits made it more difficult for the opposing jammer to make it through the pack. The Rockits seem to find the linchpin of each line of five and go after them, while still helping their own jammer through.

One other thing the Rockits do: they score a lot of points. 40% of the points scored in MNRG home games have been scored by the Rockits. A lot of those points are scored off of power jams created by Rockit blockers catching opposing jammers with track-cutting penalties or other illegal procedures. Double and triple-slams (10 or 15-point jams) get scored by almost every Rockit jammer in more than a few jams, due those penalty-box visits by opposing jammers.

If you've gotten this far in reading the preview, you're probably looking for some sort of take on who will come out of this triumphant. Since I'm fresh out of omens, I can only tell you what you might want to watch for.

Fans should look for the following from the Atomic Bombshells:
* They've done it all season, they just have to do it for forty more minutes. Open those lines for their jammers...get them to the front first so they can control the clock.
* If they get a power jam, they might consider flying through the pack. Bombshells rarely take full advantage of point-scoring opportunities when an opposing jammer heads to the box. Instead, they would rather call off a jam when a secondary jammer is in the box. Mae Gusta, Venus Thightrap, and Jocelyn D'Jewels all did a superlative job of messing with Suzie by holding jammers that were not scoring well in the box. This kept Suzie out of play. That is not going to work with most of the players that the Rockits will put on the jammer line. Harmony, Scarmen Hellectra, Abbie Mischief, and Vuedoo Prodigy have the numbers to prove that they are all going to be threats. Instead, the Bombshells might want to knock a Rockit down or out of play as an easy point for their unopposed jammer and keep them lapping the pack.
* If their own jammer gets sent to the box...the Bombshells must contain their cool. The only double-digit jams scored by the Rockits on the Bombshells in their initial meeting happened during a power jam. The women in orange turned the aggressive hitting to eleven and got sent to the box off of their illegal hits. 35 points scored over two jams, mostly because the jammer had almost no one that they had to pass who was actually skating and blocking. The Bombshell team can smoosh opponents with explosive blocking, but only if they're on the track instead of on their way to the penalty box.

Rockit fans, your guide follows:
* The Rockits must not relinquish the lead jammer position. They landed leads in the January bout against the Bombshells only six times in twenty-four jams. A team can't win on the backs of that record; the women in red must win the race to the front of the pack.
* A pack with fewer Bombshells = point gains. Now, this is always true; more players up and skating for a team is generally a Good Thing...but it has special meaning for the Bombshells. The Bombshells play best when they can make plays as a team; they tend to be coordinated and ready to jump into a new formation or explode a pack. The fewer the players up and skating, the less well they can execute. If the Rockits can go after a two-person unit just before the Bombshell jammer starts attempting a scoring pass, they'll screw the jammer's progress and whatever the team was planning for that pass.
* Expect fast Rockits and slow Rockits. The Rockits have dynamic speed; they can slow a pack in a heartbeat to trap an unwary blocker or start racing to avoid any but the fastest jammers. If the speed of the pack is being controlled by a pack of Rockits (in front and sprinting or in back and barely moving forward), the Atomic Bombshells will be playing right into the Rockits' hands.

Too much spectacular play has built up to this moment to accurately handicap this matchup. The only solution is to be there as the countdown runs out and this pitched battle begins for the Golden Skate.

Check back soon as we look at the Garda Belt/Dagger Doll matchup.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Production note for Fourth Eskate readers.

The missus and I will be heading to Rat City the day after the MNRG championship bout (no, we're not moving...).  You may expect a recaplet that will be posted at the website (and for DNN) by Sunday, followed by the usual full-up analysis sometime over the following week.

I may write the recaplet somewhere in the Roy before heading to Station 4, as a matter of fact.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Rockits triumph over Dolls, 129-37

At this point in the history of the Minnesota RollerGirls, no one expects a player to take a swipe at a rival.  Fights are basically stories that old-timers tell the rookies about from the first couple of seasons.  Still...there is rivalry in the MNRG, and no two teams have a more tempestuous one than the Dagger Dolls and the Rockits.  The two teams have a different (if equally passionate) outlook on our sport; the Rockits tend to embrace the new, interleague road-warrior style of play, while the Dollys' core seems to rest in taking the classic big blocks with fast, fast jammers.  In past years, these differences have manifested themselves in unusual ways. This year, the match was the thing, and the teams left it on the floor of the Roy.

Dolly jammer Psycho Novia broke out in the first jam past the Rockit defense and started to lap the pack.  However, Rockit scorer Harmony Killerbruise picked her way through the pack, got the lead, and called off the jam before Psycho could score.  Killamon Jaro, a rookie for the Dolls, donned the jammer star against Rockit veteran Scarmen Hellectra.  Killamon, with her long stride and lateral control, bent around an attempt by Scarmen to knock her back and took the lead.  Scarmen found herself in a flurry of Dagger Dolls and got lapped for five by Jaro.

Jaro's run showed the potential speed of the Dolly jammer squad, but this would be the Dolls' last opportunity to score for twelve minutes.  Over the next five jams, four Dolly jammers went to the penalty box along with four other Dolls in the defensive line.  The Rockits took a commanding lead with the ensuing power jams, going on a 42-point tear completely unanswerable by the Dolls.  The Rockits also called on their slow-pack defense, trapp
ing a Dolly blocker in their midst and braking fast.  This allowed jammers to break through the pack at a sudden standstill.  Still, the Rockits had to work for those points.  On Abbie Mischief's second lap through a Rockit-formed slowpack, Sinaminn jumped into Abbie's way from a dead stop and knocked her off her feet; Abbie recovered and still scored a triple slam.  Dagger Doll blocker Wonderbroad launched Vuedoo Prodigy into the air as Vue made one of her runs on a power jam, but the Rockit jammer righted herself mid-air, landed on her skates and continued on for thirteen points.  Rockits up 42-5 with seven remaining in the half.

Killamon Jaro returned to the line and flew through the pack, beating Harmony Killerbruise for the lead as Shiver Me Kimbers held the Rockit back.  Jaro scored four and got called out on track-cutting, only to be released from the box immediately - apparently a ref error.  Killamon Jaro called off the jam immediately, but not before Harmony could score four.  Scarmen Hellectra took the next lead off of an outside pass of the pack, grinning like a intergalactic despot as the refs gave her the lead jammer signal.  Sparkle Ninja followed closely behind, and each scored one.  Killamon Jaro orbited the pack for her third consecutive lead jam and took four points against two from her opponent.  49-14 Rockits with five to go.

The Rockits' wily jammer Abbie Mischief sparred against a poised Scootaloo for the Dagger Dolls.  Abbie fell into early trouble from Dolly blockers Sinaminn and Barbie Brawl, while Scootaloo got knocked through the inside of a turn.  The Doll veteran spread her arms wide and screeched to a halt before re-entering and being forced to take a penalty for track-cutting.  Meanwhile, Abbie scored four as her teammate Scarmen booty-blocked Scootaloo stride for stride to deny her exit from the pack.

Psycho Novia took her first lead of the half and scored three before Trinity Knox sent her offtrack...and with Harmony hot on Psycho's boots, the Rockits also scored three as Psycho called off the jam.  The half ended with Rockit veteran Trixie Whipsum scoring a lead against Killamon Jaro as the rookie Doll fell in behind Scarmen and Rockit captain Coochie Coup; both took a final four points.  60-21 at the half.

The monstrous 42-point streak in the middle of the first half by the Rockits turned the tide of this match quickly.  The Rockits, masters of converting the power jam, took four near-consecutive opportunities to extend the point gap and beat on the Dolls.  The Dolls also had significant penalty issues throughout the half, giving the Rockits many gaps to skate through.

The Rockits continued their march with a series of six straight lead jams, starting with Scarmen Hellectra--despite heavy blocking from Dolly Shiver Me Kimbers, but a trip to the penalty box cut short her advance.  Psycho Novia took the power jam for four.  Harmony hooked the next lead with solid blocking help from Honeydew Felon's booty scrape (a booty block moving across the track instead of directly into the player) of Sparkle Ninja and scored a double slam.  Next, Scarmen Hellectra caught her opponents looking and stole five while they tried to assist opponent Patently Offensive through the pack.  78-25 Rockits.

The Rockit streak kept going. The Reds' defense trapped Wonderbroad and Candi Pain outside the zone of engagement, sending Candi to the box when she tried to block out Rockit jammer Abbie Mischief.  Abbie double-slammed whilst the refs called Psycho Novia for track-cutting.  Through some crossed signals, Killamon Jaro was sent to the jammer line against Harmony Killerbruise despite Psycho still wearing the jammer star in the box.  The ensuing chaos allowed Harmony to score nine (Psycho scored three upon release).  And finally, Scarmen took a lead as Killamon got rocked by Rizzo just as she was about to break through the pack.  Dagger Doll Norwegian Mafia stopped the Rockit jammer in her tracks after squeezing only three unanswered points from the Dolls.  The Rockits hit the century mark with nine minutes to go. 100-29 Rockits.

Trixie Whipsum took to the jammer line next against the Dolls' Sparkle Ninja...and promptly got served a forced back block from the canny Buffy the Vampire Skater.  As Trixie headed out to the penalty box, Sparkle Ninja jinked around Pain Gretzky for the lead on the power jam.  The Rockits attempted to speed up to wear down Ninja, but Buffy started knocking around the Rockit blockers to slow them up.  The Dolly jammer scored three, and then took an unfortunate track cut across the inside turn just as the jam completed.  With Sparkle Ninja boxed, Harmony charged for nine unanswered points while Vuedoo Prodigy knocked aside anyone in her jammer's way.

Scarmen Hellectra extended the lead further with five minutes left in the game.  With the assistance of a zone trap (pulling back the Rockits so that the Dagger Doll blockers were outside the engagement zone), Scar took the lead for nine points. 118-32. Rockit rookie Icepack played against Killamon Jaro, and took her first lead jam while Trixie Whipsum launched Jaro into the trackside audience.  Icepack took three and called the jam as Doll blockers Patently Offensive and Buffy knocked her back (Jaro stole one).  Harmony ended the game with one final lead jam and eight points, with Patently hot on her heels for four.  Final score: Rockits 129 - Dolls 37.

The Rockits controlled the bulk of this game in two ways:
- They capitalized on the power jams, scoring over half of their points (66) while their jammers played unopposed.  Part of that comes from the fact that the Dolls played aggressively to stop the Rockits while their jammers cooled their heels in the box...more often than not, those same Dolls would then join their jammer in the penalty box due to illegal hits.
- They also took the majority of the lead jams (17 of 23).  Although the Rockits did not play the conservative style of years past where a Rockit would call the jam off the moment the opposing scorer came around to the back of the pack, they still had their say on when a jam would end for 70% of the game.

One historical note: the Rockits scored exactly the same number of points against the Dolls last year in March, but the Dagger Dolls tripled their own score from that match.  The Dagger Dolls are clearly better than last year's squad, and their blocking and pack play has improved a great deal from that 129-12 defeat of 2009; they recycle their players back to the front of the pack once beaten by a jammer, and their blockers gave the jammers more assistance in the Rockits match than just a whip.  What seems to be dogging the Dolls right now is the problem of penalty accrual.  With so many jams in which their scorers are out of play, it's difficult right now for them to mount a comeback.

The Dagger Dolls enter into the final bout of their season without a win and will take on the Garda Belts for third place.  The Rockits must now defend their Golden Skate against the only team that has beaten them in two years, the undefeated Atomic Bombshells.  Thermonuclear war commences in just over three weeks.  Be there for the first jam.

75 Harmony Killerbruise     (7-10) 59pts
318 Abbie Mischief     (3-3) 29pts
28 Scarmen Hellectra     (5-6) 21pts
LXIX Vuedoo Prodigy     (0-1) 13pts
6 Trixxie Whipsum     (1-2) 4pts
45 Ice Pack     (1-1) 3pts

9 Killamon Jaro     (3-6) 19pts
109 Psycho Novia     (1-8) 10pts
1111 Sparkle Ninja     (1-5) 4pts
281 Patently Offensive     (0-3) 4pts
FU Scootaloo     (0-1) 0pts

Bombshells hold back Gardas 67-42

Saturday's match between the Atomic Bombshells and Garda Belts took an unexpected turn even before the first jam had begun.  L'exi-cuter could not make the match due to outside obligations.  As L'exi had provided half of the Bombshells' points over the past two jams, the Bombshells would have to up their defense and force principal jammers Mae Gusta and Venus Thightrap to further step up their own jamming.  Meanwhile, the Gardas looked at this match as a last shot at the season championship.  To be guaranteed a berth in the finals, they would have to defeat the Bombshells by forty-seven or more.  Certainly a possibility, but Suzie Smashbox, Cassie Rolle, and Angelfire would need to keep charging through the Bombshell pack to make it happen.

Suzie Smashbox started strong for the Gardas by taking the first lead against the Bombshells' Mae Gusta.  Mae punched into the pack, only to be stopped by Garda sweeper Tiki Torture while Suzie broke past Bombshell blockers Tara Skatesov and Diamond Rough.  Suzie scored four.  Flora Flipabitch intercepted Garda rookie jammer Cassie Rolle long enough for her teammate and jammer Venus Thightrap to break through the pack.  Cassie came up behind, but Venus signaled for a pack speed-up and accelerated past the Garda defense...leaving the rookie a quarter of a track behind with no Bombshells to pass before VTT scored four. 4-4 with sixteen in the half.

Mae Gusta sparred again against Suzie Smashbox and took the lead.  While Tara and Diamond battered Suzie from end to end of the track, Mae snuck through the outside and scored seven, but the refs sent her to the box at the conclusion of the jam on accumulation of minors.  The Gardas called a timeout to recenter.

The women in green sent Angelfire out to jam while Mae cooled her skates in the penalty box.  Despite the Gardas' best efforts, they could not push Angelfire past Tara and Diamond before Mae emerged from the box and took the lead.  Suzie answered back the next jam by breaking through the pack first and calling for a her just enough time to score four before Venus Thightrap reengaged.

Cassie Rolle returned to the line, this time jamming against Jocelyn D'Jewels ("Balls" to the Bombshells).  Cassie got caught up by Misfit Maiden, slamming into the Bombshell blocker captain from behind.  Cassie got sent to the box, which opened the way for Jocelyn to take the lead.  Balls broke through the pack, snagged the lead, and called off the jam before scoring a point.  Venus Thightrap jammed unopposed for three points.  While Cassie came out as Venus began her lapping run, the referees sent her out on penalties quickly.  Venus called the jam, trapping the rookie in the box again.  Mae took the next lead as her blockers played a zone engagement trap and scored five.  Noticing Cassie rising from her seat as she approached the penalty box - signalling that her 'sentence' was about up - Mae called the jam again.  Finally, Cassie re-emerged in the following jam, beat out the Bombshell blockers up front for the lead, and gladly called off the jam.  The Bombshells scored eight points and solidly controlled the clock for six minutes amidst the power jam opportunity.  Bombshells up 19-8.

With just four minutes to go in the half, a well-rested Suzie Smashbox tore down the track, squeezing past her blockers to take the lead.  Suzie grand-slammed past her opposing jammer despite a massive hit from Tara Skatesov that had half the crowd grimacing...and the other half on their feet.  Following a no-score jam, Mitzi Massacre recovered from an early hit by Anita Spankston to grab the lead and five points, as Suzie Smashbox could not crack through a Bombshell defense that might as well have been made from concrete.  The Bombshells went to the back for halftime with a narrow ten-point lead (23-13).  Although the lead was slender, the Bombshells controlled the clock for 8 of the 12 jams, and did not allow the Gardas a single point when they had the lead.  What's more, their defensive line allowed only one player - the often-unstoppable Suzie Smashbox - to score in the half.

Tiki Torture began the second half at the jammer line against Venus Thightrap.  Tiki used her explosive acceleration to take the outside of the track at a rapid clip, but Venus wove through the inside lane to get the lead for a very quick four points.  Cassie Rolle struggled against a sweeping Tara Skatesov...but Suzie laid out Tara to allow Cassie to pass.  Seemed like something of a payback of a sort to Tara's earlier pasting of Suzie...but it also brought the crowd to a roar and got her jammer through to arrest Mae's progress.  Meanwhile, Mae Gusta scored five...well on her way to a personal best in a hometeam game.  Venus scored another four (allowing two from Suzie Smashbox), bringing the Bombshell lead to 21 with just four minutes of game time passed. 36-21.

After the sixth consecutive jam led by the Bombshells (scored by a fast-reacting Jocelyn D'Jewels, flying through a narrow opening created by opposing jammer Angelfire), Suzie bypassed a distracted Bombshell pack for a lead jam.  Suzie scored three, then got stuck with a back-blocking penalty as she ran into Misfit Maiden.  Her opponent Mae Gusta started accelerating.  Having just beaten a block outside of the engagement zone by Citizen Pain (sent to the box for her illegal hit), Mae lapped twice against an emptying pack.  On her third lap, a returning Citizen Pain took Mae down in the corner, and Mae called the jam with thirteen more points.  The box had a number of Gardas still waiting from the previous jam to be let out, so Suzie took the lead and delayed her opponent's progress in the lapping run so that all players served their time in full.  Suzie then shot through the pack ahead to take an easy four points. Mae grabbed another point in the following jam, creating her own space by jumping over skates and hips in the inside of turns. 51-22 Bombshells still ahead.

The previous jam had sent the aggressive Tara Skatesov/Diamond Rough duo to the box, and Suzie - who had been tenderized all game by these two as well as Misfit Maiden and Mitzi Massacre - took full advantage of the gaps in the pack by taking the next lead.  Suzie lapped the pack for five just as Diamond and Tara came barreling out of the penalty box like twin engines of destruction.  Tara knocked Anita aside to allow Misfit through, then re-entered the pack to await Suzie's second lap.  Suzie scored three more and called off the jam.  Cassie Rolle scored four points in the following jam (the only points scored by someone besides Suzie for the Gardas), despite an attempt by the Bombshells to speed up the pack.  51-34 Bombshells with six left.

With those two jams, the point gap looked ready to be overcome, but a horrible piece of miscommunication doomed the comeback on the next jam.  Suzie did not report to the jammer line by the first whistle, and so the Gardas were without a jammer against Mae Gusta.  Mae Gusta skated up to the pack, found the smallest of openings on the inside and jumped through it into her lapping run.  She scored eight points, followed by three points from Venus Thightrap as Skullateral Damage opened space for her teammate to take the lead and points.  Tara Skatesov donned the star and jousted against Angelfire, and knocked her opponent out of bounds well behind the pack.  That particular play guarantees that the jammer sent out of bounds before entering the zone of engagement cannot be the lead jammer.  Tara sped through for another three before getting calling off the jam following a tooth-rattling block from Dieann Isis.  Suzie scored four points in each of the final two jams, but those late points did not affect the final outcome.  With an undefeated streak and a winning record that extends now to five, the Atomic Bombshells defeated the mighty Garda Belts 67-42.

The Bombshells now have the opportunity to extend their streak to six and to win it all.  All they have to do is defeat the two-time defending champions of the Minnesota RollerGirls...the Rockits.  We will see you at the Roy for that decisive battle.

91 Suzie Smashbox     (8-12) 38pts
350 Cassie Rolle     (2-7) 4pts
c² Angelfire     (0-5) 0pts
H8U Tiki Torture     (0-1) 0pts

456 Mae Gusta     (7-11) 41pts
55 Venus Thightrap     (5-8) 19pts
3 Mitzi Massacre     (1-1) 4pts
21 Tara Skatesov     (1-1) 3pts
88 Jocelyn D'Jewels     (2-4) 0pts
313 Misfit Maiden     (0-1) 0pts

One final note for Garda fans: we noted in the preview that Garda rookie Alisin Chains has moved to Chicago.  Following the bout, we learned that Ali has been accepted into the monsters of the Midwest - the Windy City Rollers!  We wish her the best.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Season Six, Bout Six recaplet

I'm still alive, so I surmise that the recaplet that I'm wrote last time for the DNN must have been reasonably decent.  As before, drop me a note for recaplet feedback.  The full recap will be available later this week.

If you're curious why some of the best plays of the games (including launches, slow-pack countermoves from the Dolls, and a Tara Skatesov rampage so intense she turned Gamma-Ray Green) didn't make the recaplet, that's because the format for these things at DNN central is...particular.  And brief.

Atomic Bombshells defend for the win against the Garda Belts, 67-42

Part of the penultimate bout of the MNRG's season, the Gardas needed a strong win (47 or higher) in this match to displace their opponents as entrants into the finals.  They had a nice start as Garda jamming monster Suzie Smashbox outpaced the Bombshells' Mae Gusta for the first four points of thisgame...but the Atomic Bombshells returned fire as Venus Thightrap and Mae Gusta scored eleven unanswered in the next two jams.  11-8 Bombshells after ten.

The Gardas then lost five minutes of scoring time as rookie jammer Cassie Rolle was forced into the box twice over four jams.  The Bombshells stranded Cassie repeatedly and scored eight during the ensuing jamming drive.  While Suzie scored another five points for the Gardas in the next jam, that would be it for her team in the half (Bombshells up 23-13).

The Bombshells took five of the first six second-half leads, scoring twenty-seven points in ten minutes. That included a 13-point jam from Mae Gusta; Mae had a breakout match in the absence of fellow Bombshell jammer L'exi-cuter.  Meanwhile, Suzie Smashbox bore the brunt of a squeeze from the Bombshell co-captains and second-year players Diamond Rough and Tara Skatesov...containing her to just nine points over the same period.  Bombshells ahead 50-22 with 9:05 remaining.

Suzie began a comeback, scoring her first slam-plus as Tiki Torture and Citizen Pain provided coverage.  Cassie Rolle then scored four of her own to bring the game within seventeen. That was as far as the Gardas got; Suzie did not report to the line in time for her next jam, so Mae Gusta scored another eight unopposed. From there, the Bombshells maintained the lead.  Winning 67-42, the Bombshells are only one win away from the MNRG's Golden Skate and an undefeated season.

91 Suzie Smashbox     (8-12) 38pts
350 Cassie Rolle     (2-7) 4pts
c² Angelfire     (0-5) 0pts
H8U Tiki Torture     (0-1) 0pts

456 Mae Gusta     (7-11) 41pts
55 Venus Thightrap     (5-8) 19pts
3 Mitzi Massacre     (1-1) 4pts
21 Tara Skatesov     (1-1) 3pts
88 Jocelyn D'Jewels     (2-4) 0pts
313 Misfit Maiden     (0-1) 0pts

Rockits soar to finals against Dagger Dolls, 129-37

The rookie Dagger Doll jammer Killamon Jaro scored first blood with a grand slam as she sped past her opponent and found her own line amidst an infamously-stiff Rockit pack.  However, the Dolls then fell flat as three of their next four jammers went to the box on track-cutting and back-blocking.  The Rockits, using slow-pack tactics, grabbed three double slams and forty-two points during the ensuing power jams.

After twelve minutes, the Rockits had taken a convincing lead 42-5.  The Rockits continued to build on their score, rotating through five scoring jammers in the first half.  Rockit blockers kept a lid on the Dollys, allowing them to score only a combined sixteen points in the last eight minutes.  Rockits up, 60-21.

The Rockits scored an average of six points each jam in the second half, and took the lead in every jam but one.  Despite strong hits from individual players, the Dagger Dolls could not contain the Rockit jammers within the pack.  After eleven minutes of sustained attack, the Rockits hit the century marl, 100-29.

Sparkle Ninja grabbed the Dolls' only lead of the half for three, but an inside track-cutting penalty sent her to the box at the end of the jam.  The Rockits' Harmony Killerbruise took the next lead and scored nine of her 59 points in the ensuing minute.  Scarmen Hellectra, Icepack, and Harmony (again) finished out the half with twenty points between them to bring the game to its conclusion.  With this win (129-37 at the end of regulation), the Rockits have won the second berth to the finals, where they will take on the only team - the Atomic Bombshells - that has beaten them for the Golden Skate.  Hope to see you there.

75 Harmony Killerbruise     (7-10) 59pts
318 Abbie Mischief     (3-3) 29pts
28 Scarmen Hellectra     (5-6) 21pts
LXIX Vuedoo Prodigy     (0-1) 13pts
6 Trixxie Whipsum     (1-2) 4pts
45 Ice Pack     (1-1) 3pts

9 Killamon Jaro     (3-6) 19pts
109 Psycho Novia     (1-8) 10pts
1111 Sparkle Ninja     (1-5) 4pts
281 Patently Offensive     (0-3) 4pts
FU Scootaloo     (0-1) 0pts

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

MNRG Hometeam Bout 3 Preview

Before we start talking about these matches, a quick update from our ticket folks. Our non-Xcel/Roy/Ticketmaster outlets sold out as of Monday, but there are still plenty of tickets.  However, if you know that you're coming a little later for this bout, why not pick them up this week at the Roy Box Office (open 10-6pm) or through Ticketmaster?

If you have tickets already, come early and get in line. While it's great that there are no bad seats in Minnesota's own House of Derby, the bout is going to be packed and that usual seat that you love might not be available if you don't show up a bit ahead of time.

Also, we are very pleased to announce a change in next year's schedule. We will be flipping the calendar so that the home teams will begin in October and the season championship bout will take place in January, followed by three bouts featuring the MNRG All-Stars. We haven't sorted it all out yet, so please keep your ear to the track and we will let you know the moment we can tell you anything more.

Now, on to the main event.  The Minnesota RollerGirls return to the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium this Saturday for the third home team bout of the season. Saturday's matches determine who will play for the Golden Skate. The top two teams will advance to the season championship on April 3th while the other two will play for third.

Who's bouting who? Well, the Garda Belts' double threat of Suzie Smashbox's jamming cadre and Citizen Pain's flotilla of interfering broads will take on the enriched elemental fury of the undefeated Atomic Bombshells. In the second match, we will see whether the reforged Rockits of this season can make it five wins in a row against the Dagger Dolls, or if Sweet Justice and Candi Pain have worked out how to take down the Red Menace.

Let's look at the matches.

Atomic Bombshells (2-0) v Garda Belts (1-1)
To advance: the Bombshells control their destiny. If they win or lose by less than 47, they go to the finals. The Gardas must win by 47 or more to be assured a place at the championships. Otherwise, they need help from the Doll/Rockit match.

What to watch for from the Atomic Bombshells:
- Stopping the Garda jammers not named 'Suzie'. Garda captain Suzie Smashbox is no longer the only scoring threat for the Garda Belts, and the Bombshells must hold back those secondary jammers. Whether it's Angelfire (who scored 16 in her first match after eight months of rehab), Anita Spankston, Cassie Rolle, Rumblebee, or even Tiki Torture, the Atomic Bombshell back guard will need to go hunting for a wide assortment of scorers. The more that these players can be stopped, the more that the pressure will be placed on Suzie to provide the majority of the points.
- Giving the Bombshell jammers some space on the track. The Bombshells have done an amazing job opening up paths for their jammers to take this season. The Bombshell percentage for lead jams leads the league, and that's due in large part to players blockers and pivots shoving aside their opponents and making boulevards for their jammers. More of the same is going to be good for the victory.
- The three-headed monster. Mae Gusta, Venus Thightrap and L'exi-cuter have been tremendous at taking the lead. Getting that lead means being able to call off a jam at any point and controlling the clock, and that's everything in roller derby. Between them, they get the lead over 70% of the time that they go to the line. If they keep that trend going, the Bombshells will be difficult to beat.
- Stop. That. Jam. Clock. If there's one thing that you can point at that's an obvious error for the Bombshell jammers, it's that they have a problem seeing the position of the opposing jammer. Bombshell jammers will frequently call the jam well after the player from the other team has already scored points. Whether it's a lack of communication with the refs or simply that the jammer doesn't see the opponent coming, the Bombshells have allowed some unneeded points to be scored, and that must stop. 

Keys to a Garda victory:
- Keep the Bombshell blockers out of position. Whether by hipchecking players out of bounds, booty-block slowdowns, or double-teaming, the Gardas shoulddeflect the Bombshell blocker bodyguards who get their jammers to the front first. If the Gardas can counter the offensive interference of the Bombshells and delay, delay, delay those jammers by not giving them their easy lines, they've got a great road to victory.
- Don't stop moving. The Gardas are absolutely relentless when it comes to hunting players through the pack and consistently recycling back into the attack on the opposing jammer after being beaten. That's a winning tactic as long as the attackers don't leave the pack's zone of engagement; once the pack recedes, it's time to relent.
- Help that jammer. The Gardas have been averaging around fifty points a game, but the Bombshells score about twenty more than that. A big part of the difference comes from having several players who are regularly scoring. The Garda Belts must keep an eye on their less experienced jammers and give them assistance to break through the pack, whether to take the lead or to force their opponent to call off the jam.
- Guard the outside. The Atomic Bombshells own the outside lane; the orange jammers regularly take the long line on the turns because no one ever bothers to protect it. Playing some zone defense on this space as Bombshell scorers approach the turn may reap rich rewards.

Rockits (1-1) v Dagger Dolls (0-2)
To advance: the Rockits, should they win, are in the finals. Otherwise, the outcome of the Bombshell/Garda game weighs heavily on the Rockits' position. The Dolls are in the most precarious spot. They must win by more than 53 to stay alive...but the Bombshells must also win for the Dagger Dolls to have a chance at Golden Skate glory.

If you're a Rockit fan, we suggest that you watch for:
- The play tightening up. In the MNRG fifth season, the Rockit jammers went to the penalty box five times over the entire season. This year, they've already gone to the box seven times. Add to that an inability to consistently get a lead jam (they currently have the lowest percentage of lead jams in the league), and you have a team who still seems to be working out their rhythms. Captain Coochie Coup has spoken of the teams' gelling after their defeat against the Atomic Bombshells, and the play did improve significantly in if you see your Rockits stay out of foul trouble and take the lead jammer position more than 50% of the time, you might be able to sigh a bit of relief.
- What was THAT? The Rockits play a very emergent, envelope-pushing sort of game. Watch for paste-slow movement in the pack, stride-for-stride booty-blocks from one jammer that slows another jammer down, or even skating in the wrong direction (CLOCKWISE!). The more comfortable that they are with how things on the track are playing out, the wilder their tactics will get.
- Containing the opposing jammer. Not much need be said here; the Rockits try to keep at least two blockers between the opposing jammer and the front of the pack at all times. They prefer delaying tactics instead of huge knockdowns of jammers. If there are a lot of frustrated Dolls with stars on their helmets trying desperately to scrape past the Rockits in front of them, the Red Wall defense is probably doing its job.

As for the Dagger Dolls:
- Get that jammer through. Just like the Garda Belts, the Dolls will gladly beat on an opposing jammer, even at the expense of their own jammer breaking through the pack. This match will not be won by simply allowing a jammer to gut it out alone through the Rockit pack. If the Dolls can provide some interference to get their own scorers through, they are going to do very well.
- SCORE! Sparkle Ninja and Psycho Novia have each had one match this season in which they scored more than 25 points. For the Dagger Dolls to win this one, both Dolly jammers must play that well...and another player (whether a veteran such as Buffy the Vampire Skater or a newcomer like Patently Offensive, K. Jaro, or Ova Achieva) really needs to step up to the jammer line. Five Rockit jammers scored in the double-digits in February's match; the Dolls must similarly bring out the best in their jammer staff and put some points up.
- Play hard, play clean. A key to Rockits strategy is that the women in red sort of depend on the fact that the other team cannot play as fast, as hard, or as knowledgably as they can. They push players to make foolish errors in judgement like cutting the track or ramming into someone from behind. The Dolls must rise to this challenge! The women in pink have in their midst some of the fastest skaters in the league, and have the capability to send jammers to the back of the pack again and again and again. The only question is whether they can play a clean game, avoid penalties, and whip past those Rockits.
A few last bits:
Longtime Dagger Doll veteran Lydia Punch is coming back while Sweet Justice is away on medical leave.  There's also a rumor that Rockit blocker/jammer Dudezilla may yet make her return before the end of the season as she comes out of yearlong rehab for her knee.  Also of note: we wish Garda rookie Alisin Chains the best as her job takes her east, and Meshugenough is out for the rest of the season with a broken leg.  Take care, Shug...and get well quickly.

That's it, derby fans. Get your tickets, and see you at the Roy on Saturday!