With time dwindling on the clock and the Juneau Roller Girls’ jammer in the penalty box, the trailing Yukon Roller Girls had the makings of a last-minute comeback in place.
They would not be disappointed.
The Yukon Roller Girls remained undefeated by shimmying out a 164-161 win over the Juneau Roller Girls at the Centennial Hall in Juneau, Alaska on Saturday.
“I don’t know how often the lead changed, but we were within a handful of points the entire game,” said Yukon Roller Girls president Ashley Fisher.
“They had some really good blockers. But in terms of skill, ability and even strategy, I thought we met our match,” she said. “We’re already making plans to play them again. We’re sister cities, so the next event, whenever that will be, will be called Sibling Rivalry.”
The bout was so close throughout that only one point separated the teams at half, with Juneau up 83-82. It was the Whitehorse-based roller derby troupe’s third sanctioned bout and third straight win.
“It was close. I knew we’d be evenly matched because their league is about the same age as ours,” said Fisher. “And we’ve had similar experiences, with a (training) camp in Anchorage, and we’ve had a similar amount of bouts.
“It was really exciting to go there and win it.”
Putting the final touches on the Yukon’s victory were jammers Jennifer Duncombe and Katherine Stewart.
With no more time on the clock, but Juneau having lead jam – the ability to determine the length of the jam – Duncombe managed to score enough to keep the Yukon girls on top.
The Yukon’s top jammer and blocker, as determined by the Juneau squad, were Duncombe and Fisher, respectively.
“We had some really good power jams right towards the end,” said Fisher.
Due to some recent injuries sustained during practice, the Yukon brought up two rookies to compete for the team and shuffled positions. But giving newer skaters bout experience and expanding the roles of others can only be good in the long term, said Duncombe.
“We tried some different things on our bench because we recently brought in two of our rookies due to injuries,” said Duncombe, the Yukon’s coach and captain in Juneau. “So we tried a different combination of blockers and people jamming – people who were primarily practising as blockers.
“I think in the future that will really be an asset to us, to have new people come on and get experience … and trying different roles.”
The win was by far the closest contest the Yukon Roller Girls have had.
In what was both their first Outside bout and first club-sanctioned bout, the Yukon crew beat the Oil City Derby Girls’ rookie team 187-127 in Edmonton last August.
At the Klondike Klash in September, their first at-home sanctioned bout, the Yukon girls defeated the visiting Fairbanks Rollergirls 159-104 at the Takhini Broomball Arena in front of a sold-out crowd of 749. (The Juneau bout took place in front of a crowd of about 450, with tickets selling out in under six hours.)
In the organization’s first-ever intra-league bout last month, the Juneau Roller Girls were creamed 283-41 by the Rage City Roller’s Dirty Polli’s, Anchorage’s top team.
“We had to fight for this one,” said Duncombe. “That’s the best derby to watch, when it goes back and forth. I’m glad Juneau got a good show and that we walked away with the win.”
The Yukon Roller Girls have five more bouts scheduled for this season, including three in Whitehorse.
The team plans to have their first home bout of the season on April 21, but neither the opposition nor the location have been confirmed. A team from North Pole, Alaska, has shown interest and the Yukon girls are looking at the Whitehorse Curling Club (once the ice is out) as a possible location.
“The space is big enough, but there are a couple of pillars. So we have to make sure we have enough clearance,” said Fisher.
In a rematch of the Klondike Klash, the Yukon girls will travel to Fairbanks to face the Fairbanks Rollergirls on May 19.
The team will then be back at home to take on Red Deer’s Nightshades B Team on June 30 at the Takhini Broomball Arena (a.k.a The Rollerdome).
“The Red Deer Roller Derby Association is lucky enough to have their own venue they can practice and skate in all year round any time they want,” said Duncombe. “So they are a really well established league.”
Yukon expects to host another team in September before challenging the Abbotsford’s Reign Valley Vixens in Abbottsford, B.C. on Nov. 24 to end the season.
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