PHILADELPHIA, PA – Friday night’s showdown between Denver and Angel City seemed, at times, to be a clash between quantity and quality. The relatively penalty-averse Mile High Club would slowly and steadily extend its modest lead with dynamic defensive structures and well-timed jammer call-offs, and then the Hollywood Scarlets would explode for multiple passes, riding Denver’s bumper so closely you’d think they were driving under the speed limit in the left lane.
Angel City seemed poised to take control of the game in the second half, twice briefly stealing the lead from Denver and extending that lead to 19 points by picking up lead jammer eight times in a row late in the period. But Scald Eagle, after an unassuming 28-point first half, seemed unstoppable in the clutch, putting up 92 of Denver’s 113 second half points and capping the game by providing 60 points to Denver’s commanding 73-23 run in the last five jams of the game. Denver took a final 196-165 victory, and earned the chance to take on Victorian Roller Derby League Saturday at 6pm for a shot at the championship game.
Wilhelm kicked gameplay off for the Mile High Club on the strength of an offensive onslaught from Denver. That gave the team an early opening to pick up eight points and call off the jam before Angel City jammer Satan’s Little Helper could make it out of their opening pass.
Scald Eagle’s first jam of the game saw Denver picking up an immediate lead jammer call and four points before Darby Dagger could force the opposing defense out of play. Their first rematch, a few jams later, saw Scald make it out on a no-pass around a sprawling Angel City blocker, and then a star pass happened, with Tui Lyon on the receiving end. Both teams’ defenses seemed to have the opposing jammer confounded, and the jam expired after two minutes with a modest 9-8 advantage for Denver.
Denver held Angel City scoreless for the next five jams, picking up lead each time, while going on a 22-0 run across those jams. An acrobatic double-spin move from Angel City jammer Catch Mikachu and an offensive assist from blocker Fritz broke that streak. But penalty trouble temporarily reduced Angel City’s defense to just blocker Juana Teaze, leaving the track too open. Their jammer, Mikachu, proved adept at outlasting a punishing combination of Garten and Brawn Swanson to give Angel City its first double digit explosion, picking up 18 to Denver’s 8.
Denver retook control, picking up five of six lead calls, and concluding with a 9-0 run from Klein that saw Denver’s defense make an initial pass unachievable for Angel City jammer Pearl Jam. Darby Dagger responded quickly with an 18-0 outburst in favor of Angel City. That saw Angel’s defense completely prevent a single pass from Wilhelm, and kicked off a 39-4 run from Angel City across the last five jams of the half, which cut Denver’s lead to a mere 83-81 at halftime.
A seemingly effortless four point addition from Scald Eagle gave Denver just a little breathing room to start the second half, but sixteen points from first Laci Knight and then Darby Dagger in the succeeding jams gave Angel City their first lead of the game, 97-91.
That particular lead was short-lived, as just one jam later Scald Eagle made their biggest mark yet on the scoreboard. Another immediate lead and a one-footed apex jump past the entire pack seemed to discombobulate the Angel City defense who were unable to lend help to Catch Mikachu, successfully passing the star to Tui Lyon. Tui picked up three points from that pass, but Denver’s Leah Davidson cleared a significant enough path for Scald Eagle to keep the jam running, ending with a 24-3 run and putting Denver at a 115-100 advantage.
After another four points from Scald Eagle a few jams later, Angel City picked up lead eight jams in a row, going on a 42-4 run on the strength of big jams from Laci Knight, Satan’s Little Helper and Catch Mikachu. This put Angel City’s lead over Denver at 142-123 as the game approached conclusion.
Scald Eagle was then put in the perfect position to take advantage of a depleted Angel City defense, grabbing 27 points and compelling jammer Laci Knight to briefly join her defense. And then Gypin picked up ten points for Denver as their defense strung back Catch Mikachu and successfully forced a cut.
Scald benefitted after from another power jam for Denver, as a star pass from Satan’s Little Helper to Tui Lyon ended with Denver blockers Garten and Blackman seizing pack control and Tui picking up a misconduct penalty. It was those 19 points from Scald that gave Denver a 179-152 advantage in the final closing minutes of the game.
In the penultimate jam, Denver’s Klein picked up lead and a quick 3 points but then called the jam rapidly before Laci Knight, taking a star pass from the returning Tui Lyon, could even approach the opposing pack.
Satan’s Little Helper took the final lead jammer call of the game for Angel City, lapping Scald Eagle and racking up thirteen points across three passes, but unfortunately for Angel City, Scald returned the favor, making two passes before lapping SLH and putting up an equalizing 14 as the jam clock expired. The first night of play closed with a 196-165 Denver victory.
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