The first semifinal of the consolation bracket at the 2016 International WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs Madison matched the team that had traveled the farthest distance to get to the tournament, Helsinki Roller Derby from Helsinki, Finland (seed #6) with hometown hero and tournament host, the Mad Rollin’ Dolls of Madison, WI, USA (seed #10). Though Madison proved to be a challenge for Helsinki with successful spurts, the Finns ultimately controlled the game and confirmed their higher seeding with a 250-145 victory.
“It’s mindblowing to be hosting here in Madison. To have our fans in the crowd, to have all the cowbells,” said Brokeback Jac of the Mad Rollin’ Dolls. “Coming in as 10th seed, it’s rare to have people really cheering for you, but to have that energy every time you get lead is amazing.”
Helsinki jumped out quickly with a strong lead, giving up a few points while running long jams that ended 19-3 and 19-7 in their favor. Mad Malooney and Maiju Rinne grew that lead by an additional six points before the Mad Rollin’ Dolls would start to climb back. Madison jammers started positioning themselves far behind the line so they could hit the pack with speed at the whistle, which—paired with offense from Tipsy Velvet and Shananaguns—seemed to throw off the Helsinki defense. Blitz Siren, Mouse, and Black Velvet scored 38 points in three jams to take the lead after 12 minutes of play, 48-44.
“We were initially down and then we had a power jam,” said Brokeback Jac. “Black Velvet scored a lot of points and that put us up. Having the crowd putting their guts into every point really motivated us.”
But Madison’s advantage would be short-lived. Two jams later, Maiju Rinne scored four points, which started a 41-point run for Helsinki and returned the lead to the Finns, which they would keep for the remainder of the game. The momentum did shift again in favor of the Mad Rollin’ Dolls before the end of the first period, and they climbed back from a 125-64 deficit to bring the score to 125-82 with three successful jams in a row from Black Velvet, Brokeback Jac, and Ladie Who-ha. But an 18-0 jam from HRD’s Mad Malooney would close the half 143-82, with Helsinki leading.
The second half started off with tight, controlled defense and low-scoring jams from both teams. No jammer had earned more than single digits until almost 15 minutes had ticked off the clock, when MIA put up 11 points for Helsinki despite having also picked up two penalties in the same jam. Strong defense from Tiina Kimari and Sara Ekholm held Lady Who-Ha to just four points during MIA’s time in the box, which brought the score to 183-105, still in favor of Helsinki.
Helsinki started running longer jams like they had at the start of the game, allowing Madison to pick up points but outscoring them while draining the clock. They slowly stretched the margin over the final quarter of the game, and closed it with a 250-145 win.
“Now we eat and sleep and nothing else,” said Helsinki’s Janica Saxelin. “Last year we came in sixth and left sixth. This year we came as sixth and we want to improve our position.”
Helsinki moves to the consolation bracket final, where they’ll fight for fifth place at 2 p.m. Central Time Sunday against the winner of Game 11. The Mad Rollin’ Dolls play for seventh place at noon (CT) Sunday against the loser of that game.
Helsinki Roller Derby (#6) 250
Mad Rollin’ Dolls (#10) 145