The Yukon Roller Girls had lots to be excited about on Saturday night.
In their first bout at home, called the Klondike Klash, the Yukon girls defeated the visiting Fairbanks Rollergirls 159-104 at the Takhini Broomball Arena.
Perhaps even more exciting for the Yukon crew was the turnout, selling out and reaching the arena’s capacity limit of 749.
“I’m a little blown away by how supportive people in Whitehorse seem to be towards roller derby,” said Yukon captain Katherine (Wilder Than Her) Stewart. “The number of people who showed up was great. I’ve never skated in front of a crowd that big and that loud. So it was so exciting to come through the pack and hear the explosion of noise. I thought, this is a community that going to embrace roller derby.”
Yukon ran into penalty trouble early on, slipping behind 19-10 before their jammers came alive. As jammers, Stewart scored 37 first-half points, totaling 74 in the bout, while teammate Jennifer (Lady Cuntessa) Duncombe produced 35 en route to 48 by the end.
“It’s very common (to have penalty trouble early on), especially for jammers because they get very amped up before they play,” said Stewart. “So it’s common in the first few jams to draw penalties because you’re wanting to skate so hard and so fast that’s easy to skate hard into the pack and get a penalty.
“I think this was one of my better bouts and I attribute that to having confidence in the other players I was out there with.”
After starting the second half down 81-50, Fairbanks shrunk a 45-point gap to 25 with some successful jams. However, Yukon soon expanded their lead back over 40 with jammer Amil (The Fighting Mongoose) Dupuis-Rossi bringing her total to 24 points while teammate Julie (Trailer Park Clark) Clark accumulated 16 points in four second-half jams.
“We tend to play ourselves better in the second half,” said Fairbanks captain Amy (Magically Delicious) Aholelei. “We get a little bit of momentum in half time and we come back in the second half better and twice as hard than in the first half.
“We all had a really good time and I think it turned out great for all of us,” she added. “It was extremely intense and awesome, so I think derby in Whitehorse is going to take off.”
Unfortunately, only six skaters from Fairbanks – all from the All-Star team – could make the trip, meaning the remaining eight spots were filled by Yukoners. But getting to play with the more experienced skaters from the Fairbanks organization, established in 2007, was good for the Yukoners selected, said Stewart.
“We were so excited to, not only have such a great team come from Fairbanks to play with us, but to have some of our own players on the (Fairbanks) team because it was a great experience for them,” said Stewart. “They got the chance to play with some All-Stars, which is great for our league.”
“(I’m) very impressed, they all skated very well,” said Aholelei of her Yukon teammates. “For only being around for a year, they have lots of good skills and training, so I was very impressed.”
The two full teams will “klash” at some point in not-too-distant future, according to Shannon (Shenanigans) Pearson, president of the Yukon Roller Girls. The Yukon organization is considering two possible bouts with Fairbanks this spring including a double header with other Alaskan teams for May 19 in Fairbanks. The Yukon troupe may also set a date to travel to Fairbanks with their junior team, which put on their first public scrimmage during half time on Saturday.
“We’re going to set something up – not that weekend (of May 19) – and the juniors will go down to play the Fairbanks juniors,” said Pearson. “Their juniors are tired of playing against each other and our juniors will be ready to play, so it will be a good intro for them.”
Judging from their six skaters in Whitehorse, Fairbanks has some large players to choose from.
“They were bigger, they were more experienced,” said Pearson. “We thought, ‘Do not take the hit. If you see it coming, don’t be a rock star. Dodge it, let them bypass you, step around them. Let’s shut them down physically by using our walls strategically and keeping them from getting ahead of us. But don’t take the hits because they will annihilate us.’ And it worked very well.
“They weren’t used to people who didn’t hit back.”
The Yukon Roller Girls are now undefeated after two bouts.
In what was both their first Outside bout and first club sanction bout, the Yukon crew beat the Oil City Derby Girls’ rookie team 187-127 in Edmonton last month.
With more than twice the number of spectators coming out to Saturday’s Klash than the Yukon girls’ first public scrimmage in May, and an altered schedule for the next season, a new Whitehorse venue may be necessary for future bouts.
Not only did the broomball arena reach capacity, the date of future bouts could make it inaccessible. To coincide Alaskan organizations’ seasons, the Yukon Roller Girls plan to make their competitive season from January to June and September to November, largely overlapping the period when the arena is iced for broomball. The same problem exists with hockey rinks.
“Alaskans are the same way, they play, they fish, they hunt, they do their stuff in the summer, so we decided we have our bouting seasons in the fall and in the spring,” said Pearson. “That’s going to be our bouting seasons, which conflicts with hockey.
“We have practice space through the schools (outside the summer season) but they are not suitable for bouts.”
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