Road To Playoffs: Helsinki Makes Tournament Debut in Omaha

Road To Playoffs: Helsinki Makes Tournament Debut in Omaha Helsinki vs. Boston at the Big O. Photo by Donalee Eiri - Photography by D.E.sign.

Helsinki Roller Derby will travel to North America for the third time in 18 months (fourth for those who played for Team Finland during the Blood and Thunder World Cup) to compete in the 2015 International WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs in Omaha, Oct 2-4. As of last year, Helsinki was grossly under-ranked, as is common for many European teams, at #137 in the WFTDA. In order to remedy that, the team traveled extensively: twice to the U.S., once to Malmö, Sweden, to participate in the inaugural WFTDA European Tournament, and most recently to the UK where they took on London in the first sanctioned game between two D1 European teams.

At The Big O in Eugene, Oregon, Helsinki played valiantly against the Boston Massacre and Montréal New Skids on the Block. While Helsinki lost both games, they gained valuable experience and rankings points. For teams keeping an eye on the Finnish team, some trends emerged. In both games, jammer penalties plagued Helsinki and played a significant role in their loss. Helsinki also struggled to convert lead status into points against Boston (the #6 seed this weekend), largely due to Boston’s ability to break through Helsinki’s defense quick enough to apply pressure and force the jam to be called off. Boston showed excellent track awareness so that Helsinki was held scoreless on multiple jams.

Helsinki’s jammers demonstrated solid track awareness combined with agile footwork and juking to slip through the pack. Helsinki also showed their ability to adapt, switching defensive formations from a straight four-person wall to a bracing-style defense in the second half.

Posted by Marko Niemelä Photography.

Helsinki had slightly more success against Montréal (the #4 seed this weekend), but a combination of jammer penalties and a lack of coordinated offense by Helsinki contributed to Montréal’s victory. Helsinki rallied in the second half and brought the score within 7 points but could never break Montreal’s lead. The New Skids won 285-175.

On July 11, Helsinki Roller Derby All-Stars faced off against London Roller Girls London Brawling in a historic match, where London decimated Helsinki 397-33. In a game that played out very similarly to London’s game against Santa Cruz Derby Girls, which ended 317-26 in London’s favor, London Brawling only permitted 1 point to be scored against them in the first half. The second half proved more successful for Helsinki’s offense, although once again heavy jammer penalties were an issue.

After a long season of travel and competitive gameplay, Helsinki Roller Derby will make their debut in the WFTDA D1 Playoffs ranked #25 as the #7 seed in Omaha. Helsinki still has a long road ahead of them if they hope to make it to the next round, beginning with a game against the #10 seed, No Coast Derby Girls (#39). If Helsinki wins, they will advance to face the number 2 seed, Angel City Derby Girls (#8), who have had a very strong season so far.

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