MALMO, SWEDEN – When Gotham strides into a game, it usually seems like an inevitability who’s likely to come out on top – people tend to just cheer for the underdog and keep an interested eye on what points spreads say about each team’s relative rankings. But in this game, with two players on the roster who have experience beating Gotham, there was always going to be a little extra tension around the game conclusion. Certainly, no one was about to speak with absolute certainty what the outcome might be.
Going into this game, both teams were liable to have been relaxed since both of the final games for the day are between teams that have already confirmed their places at Champs in Philly this year. And it’s always an interesting unfolding, when teams have nothing but next year’s rankings on their mind when they enter a game in playoffs: some respond with joy by playing up, with no nerves to contend with, while others seem to have a more lax entry and a slightly sloppier play than their usual.
Either way, Gotham vs Denver was going to be some excellent roller derby, and so when Gotham finally won with a score of 176-85, the audience was satisfied that they’d had an opportunity to watch some stellar play.
If you wanted speedy packs, you were always going to be frustrated with this game, as only the jammers were moving and bouncing around, it would often seem. Jams were frequently low scoring, with points inching being the rule, with a handful of key Gotham exceptions. But it took the teams until the second jam to squeeze in a single point, 1-0 for ShortStop, after a 0-0 first jam, and Scald Eagle getting caught in the grinding walls of Gotham to emerge empty-handed.
When Gypin snuck in a well-deserved 9-0 jam in the 4th jam in, and the Denver team shot into game lead, there seemed a glimmer of real promise. But Gotham responded by increasing the grind, and adding on points quietly, till another Scald Eagle / ShortStop match-up resulted in 9-0 for Gotham, and the lead change that they would then hold and grow for the rest of the game.
The first half included an almost even spread of lead jammer statuses for each team, with points corresponding. The winning factor for Gotham, here, was that when they got more than one pass in a jam, they would push up into double digits quickly, stacking on the points, and seeking play domination. By halftime Gotham had taken the score to 96-44.
On the return from the break, the two teams fielded the same jammers as they began with, but with offensive assists from V Diva for Gotham’s Miss Tea Maven (she then converted to be the last line of defense on an escaping Wilhelm), they were able to break out and take points this time, pushing Gotham upwards. Wilhelm was repeatedly held and recycled to close out Denver from this jam. The crowd, as expected, were firmly on the side of the underdogs – Denver – cheering at every lead jammer status and scoring pass.
V Diva continued to make herself useful for Gotham, receiving star passes and doing the work. Her tendencies to strike out alone worked well with breaking off for offense and receiving the jammer star.
Gotham are one of the few teams that have the defensive power to shut down the scoring capabilities of Scald Eagle, which may also have been helped by their blockers’ ability to stay on the track, refusing penalties. The team used this to their advantage, letting their jammers out to claim lead on many jams matched against her. Gotham was happy to squeeze out small point clusters with every jam they could take, and these added up inexorably, slowly closing Denver out of the game.
With 16 minutes remaining in the game, as they had climbed the score to 134-63, Gotham called a team timeout to regroup. It worked just fine for them, as V-Diva took on the only two remaining blockers on the track for Denver and claimed lead jammer status for more points while Gypin remained trapped in the pack for another 5-0 in Gotham’s favor.
By the time the final 4 minutes of play hit, Gotham had climbed to exactly twice Denver’s score, 160-80, and the result seemed clear. Denver wouldn’t be content to let that lie, and took their final team timeout to try to recharge and reclaim play. But the next jam resulted in Miss Tea Maven taking lead jammer status and points while Klein became bogged down in the pack, including such a hefty knockout to the inside that the crowd “aww’d” at the hit.
With just under 1:30 left on the game clock, a ShortStop / Scald Eagle matchup went a bit differently from their jam 2 engagement at the game start, when Scald Eagle claimed lead jammer status and leapt out of the pack with points on her mind. After a slim 4-0 grab, Eagle called the jam short, handing her team another jam.
The final jam saw Space Invader taking lead, upon which Wilhelm rapidly took off the jammer star, and stashed it to work into the pack and out. But with Gotham in control of the clock, it took them only seconds to race off and call the jam, claiming a win for the team, 176-85.
Gotham emerges from the tournament in first place, with the coveted #1 seed entry into Championships in their grasp, while Denver takes the #2 exit.