Buffalo's Lake Effect Furies got their best test of this 2016 season against a newly WFTDA certified team that has been around for a long time – the Orangeville Misfit Militia. The Misfit Militia as a team has been around for a long time, originally a breeding ground for Toronto Roller Derby and their travel team CN Power and surrounding leagues. When nearby Orangeville applied for their WFTDA status and got it, the Misfit Militia brought their talents over to ORG, making the long time veteran team now a WFTDA recognized team. For perspective, the Furies played against more former CN Power skaters on Friday night then they did when they played the Toronto Roller Derby All Stars sanctioned last month at Quad City Chaos. Orangeville is new to WFTDA, but not new to derby. What was once a breeding ground for CN Power has now turned into its own destination for high level WFTDA skaters.
Unranked and unsanctioned, Orangeville had more to play for in this bout wanting to prove themselves against a D1 squad and it showed. They jumped out to a quick 8-30 lead off of three straight Furies jammer penalties to start the bout and pushed that lead to 18-51 9 jams in. The Furies responded with a 34-7 run of their own to close the gap to 58-52 before giving up a 18-0 run in the final four jams of the half to let Orangeville stretch it back out to 76-52. The Furies took 7 jammer penalties to Orangeville's 3 and the difference in focus was evident from the first whistle. Orangeville's blockers dug in giving up only 7 lead jams in that first half and impressively held Furies jammer Librawlian to a -1 16/17 in the half.
The Furies responded to start the second half with a 56-20 run, winning all but 1 of the declared leads in the first 6 jams, to pull ahead 108-96. Librawlian shook off the first half going 42-0 on her first 5 jams of the half and the Furies looked poised to pull away. The Misfit Militia were unfazed though and slowly chipped away at the lead before capitalizing on more Furies jammer penalties grabbing the lead back 129-121. Furies jammer InSINerator responded with her own big powerjam going 23-4 to put the Furies up again 144-138 in front of the frenzied crowd at 359 Ganson St. With just over 2 minutes left on the game clock ORG jammer Vee Eight lined up against Librawlian, grabbed lead and 9 points and then BelleFast followed in the final jam grabbing lead and running out the clock before calling the game as InSINerator picked up a penalty. The closest home bout for the Furies in almost a year, the packed crowd were stunned. The comeback, which looked eerily like their failed comeback against Steel City at home last year, wasn't meant to be.
The Furies played the bout trying to mix skater development while also being competitive, employing a 5 jammer rotation and resting key rotation blockers Low Hits Griffin and Vajenna Warrior and playing without rotation jammer Miss Fire. In sanctioned play every jam counts towards rankings, so coaches have to try and find ways to develop skaters in unsanctioned bouts and considering the level of defense presented by Orangeville this was a great learning experience not just for those skaters but also for the Furies blocker and jammer core. Orangeville deploys what is known as "the Cube" defense and played it in this bout about as well as anyone the Furies have met (Gotham has better defense but doesn't typically use a Cube).
The loss will hurt the competitive Furies' pride, especially coming off of the success they've had in March, but realistically this humbling experience was probably exactly what they needed. Jammer penalties have been a constant theme this season and in 3 of their 4 bouts they have given up jammer penalties at key points of the end of the 2nd half (this was the 2nd time in the final jam). The blockers did their best to contain and manage the damage of the jammer penalties, the Furies taking 13 to Orangeville's 6. Every jammer penalty sets off blocker penalties though, and after three dominant games where the Furies were slow to recognize star passes the blockers in this bout were slow to transition to offense and that kind of quick offense is sorely needed to break up ORG's cube when they have a jammer swallowed. Everyone who played for the Furies adjusted in game and that was a huge positive; the offense got faster, Jammers played with more discipline in the 2nd half, jammers who struggled were quicker to stash or pass, and the Furies blockers did a better job at holding and helping off the line in the 2nd half. The lack of focus in the 1st half was too much to overcome though and developing those habits, sanctioned or unsanctioned, will be a priority for them.
In the jammer rotation Brawl finished 62/28 in the game followed by InSINerator 51/38 and Murphy 23/24 with the jammer edge going to physical Furies jammers who could knife at the ORG pack. ORG held the lead jam advantage 17 to 19 and they closed the game grabbing lead in the final 5 jams.
For ORG their strong play is blessing and a curse. WFTDA offers a disincentive for opposing teams of unranked (new) leagues who are dominant and they will enter with a weight that is not representative of their skill. They will struggle to find teams who will play them sanctioned this year, which is a shame as they are a solid team that deserves to prove themselves in WFTDA Playoffs. Flat Track Stats currently does not have any sanctioned games listed for Orangeville this year and hopefully that changes.
As good blocking cores should operate, ORG's blockers did not stand out individually but instead were dominant as a collective. They held tight, reformed faster, and communicated better. Although they gave up runs and some large jams in this bout they never panicked and showed their veteran presence. In the jammer rotation small jammer Vee Eight is a handful with a low centre of gravity, quick feet and a lot of determination. ORG deployed a jammer rotation of Vee Eight, Misery Business and Belle Fast with Renny Rumble providing relief, and although the Furies went deeper in their rotation ORG's jammers appeared to have the edge in endurance. ORG has more options and potential depth in their jammer rotation but they were smart to prioritize Vee Eight and Misery Business, two small jammers who exploited any small hole left to them. The mere fact that their jammers have to practice against their blocking cube in practice will either speed development or crush jammers and with their veteran core this team is poised to make a splash in WFTDA, whenever they are finally given the chance.
The Furies next home bout is a sanctioned bout against Ithaca on April 23rd. Fans can find tickets at qcrg.net/tickets