2016 WFTDA D1 Playoffs: Montréal Preview

2016 WFTDA D1 Playoffs: Montréal Preview Photo credit: Marko Niemelä Photography. facebook.com/punkmarkophotos

After two exciting Division 2 weekends full of upsets, the Division 1 tournaments will begin in Montréal – notably the first time a D1 tournament has been held outside the United States. There is also plenty of international variety within the bracket, five different countries will be represented with London holding the top seed – which makes this the most international D1 playoff tournament yet!

With teams traveling long distances to participate, many of them have had short seasons due to financial limitations, giving them the potential to surprise their competitors. History has proved that we won’t likely see a #7 seed make it all the way to the Championship game on Sunday, like in the D2 brackets that have just happened, but anything really is possible here. The top three placing teams will, of course, get a spot at Championships in Portland this November.

Game 1: #7 Kallio vs #10 Rocky Mountain

The first game of the weekend will be between two teams who are finding themselves in a new position in the WFTDA post season. In the time span of a year, Kallio went from #101 in the WFTDA rankings to attending their first WFTDA Playoff tournament, while Rocky Mountain is sitting at the bottom edge of Division 1 after being a consistent part of the top-ranked 15 teams for many years. The winner will get to play later the same day against the #2 tournament seed, Texas Rollergirls.

Currently sitting at #3 on Flat Track Stats list of European teams (just under London and Crime City), Kallio carved a path for themselves this season to make it into Playoffs for the first time. (Read more about Kallio here!) In January the team was ranked #81 and their first sanctioned game this season was in March against Dock City, who was riding a rankings boost from a Strength Factor Challenge game. After that, Kallio had their own SFC game against Stockholm, followed by games against Bear City, Auld Reekie and Rainy City yielding two wins and a loss respectively.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

The Kallio All Colours utilize an efficient braced and rotating defense, with a focus on a triangular formation. Bela Glukoosi is often the head of the pack in their rainbow striped pivot panty, with strong positional blocking by Macho Bitchu and Schlagerlöf. Leading the jammer charge are Pretty Sick and Pikanté, who skated for Team Portugal in the 2014 Roller Derby World Cup.

Rocky Mountain took 4th place at D1 Playoffs in Tucson last year, barely missing the cut for Championships, and since then their roster has had quite the overhaul, including a jammer exodus to Denver Roller Derby. With a strong league throughout, they had plenty of talent that was ready to take on full-time charter team duty, including Havoc and Wild E Coyote who currently top the jammer rotation.

Rocky Mountain took on a hefty season of play, despite the turnover, and by the end of June they had won five games and lost nine after attending The Big O, Besterns, and Thin Air Throwdown. The only teams that Rocky beat in this season were from Division 2, and Arizona, who was ranked #40 as of June. Finding their footing over the course of those games, they went from beating Boulder County by just 35 points in March to 102 points in May.

Game 2: #8 Sun State vs #9 Detroit

From Queensland, Australia, Sun State first made their trip to Playoffs last year where they entered as the 7th seed and finished the tournament in 8th place. In 2016, they attended Royal Rumble in Australia and the 80/35 Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa for sanctioned play. Going 4-2, the only teams they lost to were Team United and Dallas, and their closest game was a 213-153 win over No Coast.

Sun State will be returning to Playoffs with some familiar faces, but with some roster changes as well, such as the additions of Chop Chop and Janosaurus Wrecks, both from other local Brisbane teams. With just 13 skaters heading to Montréal, the Swarm won’t have much room for foul outs or injury across the tournament.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Photo credit: Danforth Johnson.

Detroit also attended events local and abroad in their season of play, and with a 5-6 record in 2016, they played a wide range of competitors. At The European Smackdown, they had some inconsistent results but did take on the top four European teams, which included a 266-point loss to the #1 seed of this bracket, London. Besides 2014 when they took a dip into Division 2, this is one of the lowest times Detroit has entered a Playoff bracket and they will have to work their way up from the bottom half of the bracket. In a year’s time Detroit went from losing to Tampa by 135 points last year at Playoffs to beating them by 59 points this August, so perhaps early losses this seasons have weighed down their ranking a bit, making them a team that could make moves based on that underestimation.

At The European Smackdown Detroit was missing Feta Sleeze from their rotation, but she was back scoring points at Midwest BrewHaHa. She picked up 76 points in their two games there, second only to Sarah Hipel who scored 120. They have a wide range of skaters who can take the star, including Jilleanne Rookard who notably skated at the Olympics in speed skating.

Sun State and Detroit have never played one other before, but with a common competitor in Team United this year, Detroit was able to put up more points against TU, although they both lost to the #17 ranked team from Des Moines. The winner will go on to take on #1 London later on Friday, at 6pm EDT, who Detroit has already fallen to this year, while Sun State has never played them.

Game 3: #3 Bay Area vs #6 Boston

Bay Area played at The Big O, and Pac Destruction, taking on four of the current top 10 teams, and only beating #10 Denver by a slim 12 points. Last September BAD took on Victoria at Playoffs with a 151-107 loss, but this year at the Big O Bay Area lost 324-35. They seemed to have maintained their flatter, wall-focused defense, but with a less experienced roster working together, we saw correspondingly less of their previous speed and pack control at the Big O.

Another victim of roster turnover, Bay Area has had to fine tune teamwork among skaters who may have been rostered before, but are getting much more time on the track now, along with some freshly chartered blood. They also have had leg breaks affect play, with Demanda Riot out after Jantastic early in the year, and then Frightmare suffering her own injury in June.

Photo credit: Danny Ngan Photography.

Photo credit: Danny Ngan Photography.

Boston had a split 4-4 sanctioned season this year, and after playing and losing to Montréal twice, they closed the margin by about fifty points between June and July. With a fairly same roster to last season, besides some name changes, Boston could have that on their side against BAD, but having lost to three teams ranked between them, Boston will have to bring a strong game to bring down the formidable Bay Area.

From opposite sides of the country, these teams haven’t played since 2009, but whoever wins will have to face the winner of Game 5, which includes #1 seed London. Winning this game means at least getting a shot at on of the top three spots, but losing means hitting the consolation bracket with the highest outcome being 5th.

Game 4: #2 Texas vs Winner of Game 1

After going to The Big O, Thin Air Throwdown, and SweatFest, Texas went 6-4 in those game, with their losses being from four of the top five teams. Their most recent game was in New Orleans where they lost to last year’s Champion, Rose City, and only by 44 points. The Texecutioners already soundly beat this bracket’s #3 seed, Bay Area, so if seeds hold through, London will be Texas’s most major competitor in Montréal.

Photo credit: Danny Ngan Photography.

Photo credit: Danny Ngan Photography.

Texas has had to mix it up with their jammer rotation this season, and after the addition of Nicki Ticki Timebomb, she became their leading scorer at the Big O. FiFi Nomenon tried to sit this year out from the Texecutioners, but it looks like she will be joining them in Montréal nonetheless. The team’s blocking strategy comes in a strongly braced quad formation, often directed by long-standing powerhouses Jackie Daniels or Smarty Pants. They offered some quick offensive moves at The Big O, but would default to defense which meant they struggled to put up points against Angel City in that tournament.

Their first competitor will be decided after Game 1, either #7 Kallio or #10 Rocky Mountain, but the Texecutioners already beat Rocky earlier this year at Thin Air Throwdown, by a solid 235 points. Advancing will put Texas in the semi-finals against either Bay Area or Boston on Saturday, at 2pm EDT.

Game 5: #1 London vs Winner of Game 2

London played most of their sanctioned games in March when they attended the European Smackdown. They also had a game at Mayday in HEL, and then hosted Gotham for a rematch in London. Although London beat all the Euro competition handily, they were able to stay on their side of the Atlantic this season to get their games in, as the level of game play and rankings more generally has risen overseas. As the #4 team in the WFTDA rankings, London lost to #1 Gotham in June by just 31 points.

London has their usual suspects for jamming, such as Stefanie Mainey and Lexi Lightspeed, but have added Carley McAdam and Bear City transfer Master Blaster, who have really rounded out their scoring line-up. London blocking stalwart, Raw Heidi, retired this year, but otherwise the team’s blocking rotation is similar to last season, so anticipate the return of quick transitioning blows from Juke Boxx or slow and controlled defense by Shaolynn Scarlett.

The bracket has potential to align London with Detroit and Montréal, both teams they have already beat this season, putting them on a strong path to the final game, barring any surprises. Winning their first game will put Brawling in a semi-final game Saturday, at 6pm EDT.

Game 6: #4 Montréal vs #5 Dallas

Tournament host team Montréal has never made it out of a Playoff bracket in the top three that head to Champs, and this year they will have some strong competition to contend with if they want to make this year their first. After an 8-3 record this season, the New Skids on the Block traveled to Mayday in HEL and ECDX and played a variety of ranked teams. At ECDX, the team lost to Philly – who sits just above them in the WFTDA rankings – by 117 points, and have already lost to tournament top seed London, 208-78.

The New Skids are lacking Mel E. Juana from last year, but still have a strong jammer rotation led by Miracle Whips and Falcon Punch, supported by Green Mountain transfer TerminateHer. Their braced blocking led to many direction of play penalties at ECDX, as well as forearms, so they will have to keep an eye on those calls against the quick jammers of Dallas.

Dallas burst back into the top 40 last season, and at Playoffs they gave Philly a run for their money after holding the lead over them into halftime, although ultimately losing the game. After six wins this season, they only took a loss in June when they took on Denver Roller Derby, losing 196-80. At their own Clover Cup event, they took first place after beating Team United, who is currently ranked one spot above them, 151-88.

Dallas’s jammer rotation can go from quick speed work, by Miley Virus, to strength and experience by Anita Riot. For defense, their strong, braced quad makes the edges dangerous for jammers, but the middle leaves no room for pushing either. With this soul-crushing formation, Dallas could put the pressure on Montréal and pull an upset, especially if the New Skids retain the jammer penalty problems they suffered against Philly.

The Friday night #4 and #5 seed match up is likely to be a good one, and the winner will advance to a semi-final game on Saturday. If top seeds hold out, the winner will take on London.

Check back to Derby Central throughout the weekend for scores and recaps and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for pictures and updates as well.

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