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!

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