Game 3 of the 2016 International WFTDA Division 1 Playoffs Madison pitted the Minnesota RollerGirls from St. Paul, MN, USA (seed #3) against Helsinki Roller Derby from Helsinki, Finland (seed #6). Both teams came into the tournament with a 6-4 season. Minnesota had faced higher-ranked opponents, winning a game against the Rat City Rollergirls at the Sibling Rivalry Roller Derby Invitational and taking on the 2015 WFTDA Champions, the Rose City Rollers. By contrast, Helsinki’s highest-ranked opponent this season was Rat City and the Finnish team lost to them. Minnesota improved their 2016 record today by taking the win, 337-109.
“Playoffs are different from big tournaments like The Big O,” said Minnesota skater Diamond Rough. “You see a team there but you don’t know if it’s the same team when they come here.”
Minnesota rolled out ready for tournament play, putting up 30 points in the first two-and-a-half minutes. But Helsinki soon found their footing with four lead jammer statuses in a row. Unfortunately, running one of those jams long, on top of a late call-off on another, meant they only gained a six-point advantage from their streak—picking up 24 to Minnesota’s 18.
“Helsinki came out as hard as any top 10 team,” added Diamond Rough. “We had to remain calm and use our previous experience to regain advantage in the game.”
A quick 3-0 jam from Brickyard put the score in Minnesota’s favor, 51-24, ten minutes into the game. Helsinki struggled to regain control when they found themselves in some jammer penalty trouble as MIA and Vega collectively made four trips to the box within two jams. Offense from Minnesota’s Rhea Volt and Secondhand Smoke allowed Yekaterina Lapitsky, Jacked Pipes, and Brickyard to increase Minnesota’s lead to 91-29 halfway through the first period. Two more Helsinki jammer penalties widened the point gap to 108-39, despite phenomenal defense by Vega and Nina Erwes.
But Helsinki displayed impressive resilience, and in the last five minutes of the period they were able to pick up 30 points to Minnesota’s 24. This brought the score at the halftime to 155-69, still in favor of the St. Paulites.
“We didn’t come this far to only come this far,” explained Helsinki coach Jori. “Last year we weren’t prepared mentally for playoffs. This year we had a better idea of what to expect.”
Helsinki started the second half where they’d left off with a 8-0 jam delivered by Mad Malooney. But from there, Minnesota held them scoreless for seven jams before Mad Malooney would steal a point on a late call off by Jacked Pipes. A 10-0 jam for Minnesota’s Sarin Dipity brought the score to 245-78, still in favor of the number three seed.
“Helsinki was hungry,” said Diamond Rough. “No lead is safe in playoffs. Upsets happen and we needed to stay calm and keep playing to take home the win.”
In the second lead of the half for Helsinki, Maiju Rinne ran a long jam in an attempt to close the score gap, but Minnesota outscored Helsinki 12-10. Another long jam five minutes later would prove to be more successful for Helsinki, as Maiju Rinne out-scored Sarin Dipity 8-6. This was the first time that the Finns outscored their opponents since the first jam of the half. They earned another win in the following jam, which ended 5-0 in their favor. With five minutes left they passed the century mark, 293-101.
“We felt, physically, we were right there with Minnesota,” said Jori. “Where they got us was strategy and quick adaptation. We like these games though. We come into every game to win but we cherish the games where we learn and everyone is smiling.”
Minnesota dominated the final minutes of the game as Helsinki’s penalty troubles returned. While Helsinki lost their jammer to the box three times within the span of four jams, Minnesota put up 44 points to Helsinki’s eight. Helsinki wasn’t able to recover, and Minnesota closed out the game with a 337-109 victory.
The Minnesota RollerGirls move on to the semifinals at 8 p.m. Central Time Saturday, where they’ll face either Arch Rival Roller Derby from St. Louis, MO, USA or tournament host league, the Mad Rollin’ Dolls from Madison, WI, USA.
Helsinki will play Ohio Roller Derby from Columbus, OH, USA in the consolation bracket on Saturday at 10 a.m. (CT).
Minnesota RollerGirls (#3) 337
Helsinki Roller Derby (#6) 109