QCRG D1 Preview: The Battle of the QEW, Furies to Take on Toronto’s CN Power
by Dylan Powell - posted 7:44 am, September 29, 2015
The Battle of the QEW conjures up various different sports images in my mind; Leaf killing goalies in Hasek and Ryan Miller, the ’99 playoffs, Joffrey Lupul’s flippant dismissal of Buffalo, and also the battle over resources that has seen Toronto pitted against Buffalo in sports market reach and development – i.e. the future of the NFL. That battle has also had a flip side of cooperation though, namely the relationship between the Toronto Blue Jays and their farm team the Buffalo Bisons. 99 miles separating the cities, this supposed “Battle” has a lot of grey – ask any Leafs fan who would rather pay for tickets to watch games at First Niagara.
A new, and nuanced, chapter will be written in this story this coming weekend in Omaha, Nebraska as the Queen City Roller Girls “Lake Effect Furies” will take on Toronto Roller Derby’s “CN Power.” The initial bout for each team in their Division 1 playoff bracket, the game won’t involve the QEW, but it will be an extremely important and competitive game. If the Furies win, they cannot leave Omaha any lower than the 8th Seed (they come in at 9). If CN Power wins, they ensure they at least come out with their seeding and they shore up their position in a season that has seen them drop slightly in WFTDA rankings from 28 to 32nd. CN Power has more to lose, but the Furies are also feeling pressure to exorcize the demons of poor past D2 playoff showings and to continue their climb (from 36 to 33rd this year). Neither team is able to look past this bout, and it may be one of the closest and most competitive bouts of the weekend and of all D1 playoffs.
For those who don’t follow women’s flat track roller derby, one of the most cherished and celebrated things about the sport is the level of sportswomanship. “Battle” between these two teams – who have historically had a close relationship scrimmaging and supporting each other – may be off the mark, but the pressure and competitiveness will still be cranked up to 10.
The bout, and all of the Furies bouts this weekend, can be streamed online at wftda.tv. You can also follow updates on the hashtags #qcrg #wftdaplayoffs and #talk2wftda.
Things to Watch
Experience: Leading into Playoffs CN Power held a massive edge in experience. The team made D1 playoffs in 2013 and ’14, while this is the Furies first D1 appearance after two straight D2 playoff appearances. Both teams have blocking cores anchored by veteran skaters; Tabrina Schreier, Tuesday Hula, Vajenna and Pepper Stix for the Furies and Santa Muerte, Ames to Kill, Renny Rumble and Nasher the Smasher for CN Power. Those remaining vets for CN Power have an advantage in that they have lived through squeaking out close wins in D1 playoffs – a 6 points win against Boston in 2013 and a 14 point win against Steel City in 2014. However, as Playoffs have drawn closer the experience advantage has levelled off as jammer Smoka Cola and blocker Biggley Smallz are out with injuries and co-Captian Scarcasm has moved to Nunavut. CN Power has shored up their roster by adding 5 skaters to their charter – LexiCon, Beaver Mansbridge, Sleeper Hold, Onyeka Inge and Monster Muffin. None of those skaters have any playoff experience and some may not have any CN Power experience. Historically the Furies have struggled with jitters and nerves in their first bouts in tournaments and playoffs, but it is likely that some skaters over on the CN Power bench will be feeling this even more than they are. Outside of all of this, the Omaha tournament will be held on sport court – a more grippy and distinct flooring that is drastically different from what CN Power is used to and which some of their skaters may have never skated on before. If things start to swing with momentum for either team look, for those core blockers to calm down their teams and regroup. Whoever can do that more effectively may decide who wins.
Penalties: The level of referee scrutiny increases in playoffs and that will be tough for these teams who can get very penalty heavy. Both teams played Ohio this year, in Ohio, and the penalty splits were eerily similar 49/32 for TORD and 48/30 for QCRG. 5 on 5 these are very strong teams, but both are capable of losing games because of penalty trouble. Penalties are still one of the biggest determents of these playoffs with 24/33 bouts in D2 playoffs seeing the least penalized team winning a bout and 37/51 D1 bouts reading the same thus far. That is a combined 61/84 so far this playoffs – 73% of games seeing the least penalized team winning. Many of those games get determined by a just a few penalties. Whoever can play cleaner gives their team a significant chance to win.
Blocking Styles: These teams have two very different and distinct blocking styles. The Furies blocking core has much more size and they will look to sit on Toronto’s jammers, while trying to close off the lines and any holes that CN Power’s smaller jammers can work through. For CN Power, they have a smaller and faster blocking core that is better at recycling fast, drawing back jammers and transitioning. They will struggle to hold Furies jammers Librawlian and InSINerator who have the size and power to disrupt their cycle and all Furies jammers have the strength to push CN Power’s pack. Both teams practice against blocking styles which are very tough for their jammers, but which won’t particularly prepare them for the other teams style. Whichever team can make in game adjustments the quickest will give themselves an advantage. If CN Power jammers are struggling their blocking core will have to use that quickness to transition to offense very fast to release jammers. If the Furies are struggling to close off small holes they will have to find ways to tighten up without giving up room on the lines – where CN Power jammers thrive. I think the Furies have a small advantage here as Brawl and Sin’s size and speed will give them a boost that should also give the Furies a small lead in lead jammer %. However, I don’t see the Furies holding CN Power jammers for long. I expect a lot of close 4-0 jams. The Furies blocking core has great momentum as their walls have consistently tightened throughout this year and there is a high level of cohesion right now, still, the experience and skill that exists in CN Power’s blocking core is serious and there won’t be any easy jams for Furies jammers.
Panty Passes/Drawbacks: To hammer on some finer point strategy that could decide the bout – watch for panty passes and drawbacks. Panty passes, the removal of the jammer helmet cover to fake or pass to the pivot, is a very popular trend in WFTDA and a main jammer strategy for CN Power when their jammers do not have lead. The strategy is not without its risks though, and their new inexperienced jammer line up could have this backfire. Procedural penalties, dropped helmet covers, and the overall chaos that can come from focusing on passes instead of offense, can have a disruptive effect that far outweighs the moves potential. On top of this, drawing opposing jammers back after hitting them out is central to CN Power’s defensive strategies. They are smaller and fast, but they hit deceptively hard, and drawing back opposing jammers slows their momentum while exhausting them. If CN Power gets stuck taking the front line, as I think they will as they will give up the majority of lead jams, it may be harder for CN Power to effectively draw back Furies jammers around Furies blockers. If the Furies blocking core can sit on CN Power jammers and also effectively disrupt drawbacks they will help cut down on their jammers track cut penalties, scatter CN Power’s blockers and save their jammers energy.
Prediction: Furies 175 – CN Power 162. This could go either way, but I think the Furies take this “Battle of the QEW” and beat CN Power by a very slim margin.