Denver Roller Derby (#2) vs. Angel City Roller Derby (#2)
Day 1 of the 2017 International WFTDA Championships was capped by an intense game between Denver Roller Derby of Denver, Colorado, U.S. (Seed #2, WFTDA #5), and Angel City Derby of Los Angeles, California, U.S. (Seed #2, WFTDA #4). After an agonizingly close first half, the second period saw several lead changes and a last-jam effort by Angel City to pull the lead back, but Denver held the advantage in the end with a final score of 196-165.
The teams previously faced off at The Big O in 2017 and 2016. Angel City came out on top in both games, but while the team won the 2016 game by a landslide (214-81), this year Angel City won 190-169 — within just a few points of the final score in Philadelphia.
Denver grabbed an early lead, putting up 8 unanswered points in the first two jams. Angel City made it onto the scoreboard just under four minutes into the game, but Denver was able to hold the strong defensive game it demonstrated in the first two jams to keep Angel City scoreless in more than half the first period’s jams. Quick jams had blockers plugging holes in the pack just as a jammer had the idea she could get through, but Denver’s low-penalty game kept its jammers on the track the whole first half, helping it to a 43-15 lead halfway through the period.
It wasn’t until Angel City jammer Catch Mikachu was able to find the speed and agility to cut through Denver’s defense for 18 points that the Los Angeles team gained momentum, closing the gap to 51-43, but Angel City couldn’t wrest the lead from Denver until the second period.
It looked like Denver was going to continue to pull away from Angel City and into a comfortable lead until the last several minutes of the first period. Fans might have thought so; Denver did not think so for a minute. Darby Dagger and Laci Knight had 18-point and 15-point unanswered jams, respectively, and pulled Angel City to within 2 points of Denver’s score at halftime. The teams went into the locker rooms inches apart from one another at the break with an equally close score: 83-81, still in Denver’s favor.
The second period got off to a start that had fans back on the edge of their seats, but they had no nails left to bite after the agonizing back-and-forth closing minutes of the first period. They didn’t get many chances to catch their breath in a second period with four lead changes, the first of which came four minutes in when Angel City pulled ahead for the first time in the game, 91-97. Denver’s Scald Eagle hit back immediately with a 24-point jam, slicing relentlessly through the pack and collecting points as Angel City’s jammer passed the star to Tui Lyon, who couldn’t escape the pack thanks to Denver’s strong defensive tripods.
Halfway through the second period, Denver’s Klein felt the free air as she escaped the pack with lead jammer status, but she caught Denver’s first jammer penalty (forearm) and left Catch Mikachu on the track to score 13 points. She pulled Angel City into the lead, but Klein quietly exited the penalty box and snuck through on her initial pass. She was then able to slip through on a scoring pass before Angel City called it off, giving Denver four points of its own in the jam — but not enough to prevent Angel City from once again taking lead with less than half the period remaining.
Satan’s Little Helper dove, dodged and hopped to avoid would-be recycling hits from Denver’s defense, but Denver’s blockers did not panic and calmly caught her, forcing her to call off the jam after only scoring 5 points. With just under nine minutes left, Angel City continued to inch forward and keep Denver scoreless at 123 points for four jams in a row while inching up its own tally, hoping it had turned the tide.
But Scald Eagle had different ideas. Quickly grabbing lead and with her blockers holding Laci Knight firmly in the pack, Scald Eagle skated lap after lap to pull Denver even and then back into the lead with a 27-point jam, bringing the score to 150-146 with under 7 minutes left in the game.
An unfortunately timed track cut assessed to Catch Mikachu in her otherwise-clean game left Denver jammer Gypin on the track, albeit shaken by an intense hit by Angel City’s Soledad. The penalty box weeded out Angel City’s blockers, leaving just two on the track and giving Gypin an opening to put up 10 points before the jam ended. The clock read just under 5 minutes and Denver still led, 160-149.
Angel City caught Scald Eagle and held her until Brawn Swanson swooped in to free her sister, which was all it took for Scald to start on a 27-point scoring spree, grabbing another 19 points just two jams later to give Denver a 30-point lead going into the last jam.
Satan’s Little Helper and Scald Eagle took the jammer line together in what would prove to be the last jam. Angel City needed a quick lead jammer call and a penalty to Scald Eagle for an opening to put up enough points to eke out a win, but Denver was betting on Scald Eagle’s momentum from the last two jams to carry her through.
Satan’s Little Helper got the quick lead jam status and initial scoring pass she needed, but Scald Eagle followed her right out after that to start her own scoring run. Angel City gambled by running the jam clock out instead of ending the jam, hoping for a penalty to Scald Eagle or wide-open lanes through Denver’s defense. As the clock wound down with both jammers scoring, Satan’s Little Helper passed the star to Laci Knight with the hope of catching Denver off guard and slipping through the pack, but Denver trapped Laci before she could get through as the clock ran out on Angel City’s chance for the win.
Denver moves on to play the Victorian Roller Derby League of Melbourne, Australia (Seed #1, WFTDA #1), on Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern Time. Angel City will play Rat City Roller Derby of Seattle, Washington, U.S. (Seed #4, WFTDA #12), in the consolation bracket on Saturday at 4 p.m. Eastern Time.
Denver Roller Derby of Denver, Colorado, U.S. (Seed #2, WFTDA #5) 196
Angel City Derby of Los Angeles, California, U.S. (Seed #2, WFTDA #4) 165