ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA — After six months of rest and much touring as a travel squad, the Minnesota RollerGirls All-Stars returned to the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium on October 18th. Ranked 18th in the nation and fresh off of Eastern Regionals, the MNRG invited 35th-ranked Northwest Arkansas’ Killbillies to its opening bout in front of 2500 Twin Cities fans. NWA brought a team that had been playing together since March and fought against the Minnesota defense all evening long, but the final result was a lopsided victory for the home team — Minnesota was up 90-4 at halftime on their way to a 158-46 win.
Suzie Smashbox, a darling of the MNRG crowd (and league co-MVP) stood against Arkansas’ Mellow Yellow…and within two seconds of the whistle, Yellow had hit the floor from a well-timed inside shoulder by Smashbox. With her opponent down, Suzie sped through the pack, took the first four points, and called off the jam. MNRG co-MVP Jawbreaker then led to take another five points in the next jam. Not to be outdone, Smashbox scored two before Minnesota’s Harmony Killerbruise put nine points on the board with tremendous defensive blocking from MNRG pivot Demora Liza. In six minutes, the MNRG had taken twenty unanswered points.
The NWA did not stand still in the midst of this; Mellow Yellow, Apache Rose, and Danger Darling all took turns beating against the Minnesota pack, but all were stymied by the opening minutes. With no penalties early in the game and early strong jammers, Minnesota often leaves their jammers to work their own way through the pack and takes on the task of juggling the opponents, and this bout was no exception. Minnesota blockers Misfit Maiden and Honeydew Felon kept sweeping Arkansas off the track, forcing them to re-engage from the back and leaving the NWA to constantly have to catch up.
Apache Rose finally broke out of the Minnesota pack while NWA’s Unskinny Wop ran interference, took the lead and scored two points before calling off the jam. Suzie Smashbox responded with a fast stroll past Wop in the following jam, taking the lead while NWA’s jammer Danger Darling was sent to the box. Suzie took advantage of the power jam for a full double slam, and ten minutes into the game, MNRG was up by 31.
The Killbillies took their first timeout to reconnoiter and recover, but to no avail. Over the course of the next nine jams, Arkansas’ team became mired in major penalties and accumulations of minors. NWA’s Joann of Arc, Pork Pie, Mellow Yellow, and Rockin Robin – all while jamming – were sent to the penalty box, leaving Minnesota with many power jam opportunities. The MNRG took full advantage and added 48 points to the score; the NWA grabbed two points during this period and did not score again until the next half.
Once the NWA cleared up their penalty issues, the pace returned to the quick score-and-call tactics that Minnesota employed early on. At the end of the half, Minnesota had taken a dominant lead against Arkansas, 90-4.
Key to Minnesota’s high point-differential was the MNRG defensive team. Minnesota blockers not only sent Killbillies spinning (particularly Misfit Maiden and Citizen Pain), but they also sent Arkansas blockers into penalty trouble. Little by little, Minnesota kept pushing the NWA off of the track, trapping their opposition into re-emerging illegally on the track. A change to league rules this summer has made this tactic a favorite of the travel circuit. When a player comes back from outside the lines in front of someone that they did not pass on the track (that is, legally), track-cutting gets called and the offender is either charged a minor or a major penalty (a trip to the penalty box). This can kill a team’s momentum as either the jammer (usually the target) gets sent out or a portion of the defensive line is removed; neither is a good option.
At halftime, both teams changed tactics. With a sizable lead, Minnesota opened up their play a little and began working in jammers outside of the Twin Cities triumvirate of Harmony, Suzie, and Jawbreaker. Arkansas likewise decided to test Minnesota’s reputation as a hard-hitting team and lay on some targeted blocking of its own. In the half’s first jam, Harmony took the lead by taking a ride on a Jawbreaker legwhip and scoring six points before NWA’s Unskinny Wop stopped her cold in the back corner. Mellow Yellow broke the pack as well and took four points.
Minnesota’s Suzie Smashbox scored ten points while taking heavy hits from Pork Pie and Dimah Darling; Apache Rose took advantage of two illegal blocks from MN and scored seven points. Danger Darling grabbed a lead in the next jam and seriously built up a score for the Killbillies when Misfit Maiden – attempting to score for MNRG – was sent to Grandma’s Kitchen for a one-minute timeout. Using Pork Pie and Dimah to clear the road, Danger scored an even dozen.
With Maiden still in the box, Mellow jammed unopposed but fell afoul of Harmony Killerbruise and an ugly hit in the back of the pack by Honeydew Felon. Fortunes were quickly reversed and Mellow went to the box, although Misfit did not score in turn. Suzie entered to take advantage, withstanding a withering glance from NWA’s Blackzilla, but was sent to the box herself. With 20 minutes remaining, the score was 108-27.
Pork Pie came to the line against Minnesota’s Vuedoo Prodigy. Vue jumped ahead and grabbed the lead while Pork got stopped by MNRG’s Demora Liza. Liza – who has been juggled around the MNRG pack over the past few games – really seemed at home in the Pivot position, keeping jammers back with booty blocks just long enough for her blockers to pick off the opposition. Vuedoo grabbed eight points off that jam.
After an inconclusive jam led by MNRG’s Hanna Belle Lector, Harmony scored an additional nine to Joann of Arc’s three. At that point, both defenses took over until there was only twelve minutes to go. Honeydew and Blackzilla continued to guard the back for their respective teams, while Liza and Dimah Darling (Killbilly co-captain) kept their opposing jammers from breaking the pack.
It was Dimah and MNRG vet CleoSPLATra who started the scoring again; Cleo took a nasty hit from Unskinny Wop but still stole three points before going to the box. Dimah grabbed five off of the power jam, putting the score at 128-35. Two jams later, Vuedoo scored four, while the MNRG’s co-captain Suzie – who had been hammered by some precise hits earlier in the quarter – gave back in kind, sending Vuedoo’s opposing jammer (Itty Bitty Bang) sprawling into the crowd (Be of good cheer, no beer was spilled.) Moments later, Bang was sent to the penalty box.
Minnesota took advantage as Hanna Belle Lector scored eight on the subsequent power jam…141-38. Jawbreaker ended her evening with an eleven point monster jam (with opposing jammer Flyin’ Maiden taking four), and Suzie Smashbox and NWA jammer/blocker/pivot Saba Taj ended this fine match and brought the final score to 158-46.
The Minnesota RollerGirls are next in action on November 22nd against longtime local rivals the 15th-ranked Dairyland Dolls of Madison. With Madison having eliminated Minnesota in the first bout of the recent Eastern Regionals, Minnesota will most certainly be looking for a little payback.
For more about the MNRG and the coming year, check out the MNRG fan podcast, The Fourth Eskate.
Additional reporting: Bat Wing, Frau Scientits, Dimah Darling