A somber hello to you, rockers. It's taken a full week to get over the heartbreak of the Guns N Rollers' 84-108 loss to the High Rollers. I may not be fully over it still, in fact. We all wanted this win so badly, and it was absolutely in reach. I watch the bout footage over and over, I read over my notes again and again, and it makes my rebel toes curl that GNR could have taken this one home. Our ladies in black fought hard and they made their loyal fans proud, but the night could have been so much more bitchin'. Let's break it down...
What did I tell you, GNR?! Stay out of the box! 70% of the bout was played down at least one GNR blocker (yes, I did the math). Valuable defensive skills were missing from the track while Frank N Hurter and Havana Goodtime sat in the penalty box. GNR jammers going to the box at key points in the game resulted in the only 9- and 10-pt jams the High Rollers ever got. The night wore on, the skaters became desperate, the play became frenetic, the penalties piled on. Interestingly enough, the High Rollers spent a fair amount of time in the penalty box themselves. In fact, Minstrel Psycho, Hurrican Skatrina, and Layla Smackdown were all on the brink of ejection due to accumulation of penalty minutes. When it comes to total minutes spent in the box, it was the High Rollers that had the most (42min to GNR's 32min). On paper the High Rollers had more trouble with penalties across the board. So why did GNR's penalties hurt so much more? Because even when HR was down a blocker or two they kept together, tightened up, picked up the slack from the missing player, and skated on. When GNR lost a blocker their confidence seemed to leave the track as well. Pack awareness lessened and strategy went right out the window. Any ideas of scoring points were abandoned as it became a game of survival. With a full contingent of blockers GNR did well to contain the HR jammer and get some points for themselves. But as soon as that whistle blew and someone got sent off the track, things sort of fell apart.
An "off" night
You know that feeling when you accidentally put your shirt on backwards? And then you accidentally pour salt into your coffee instead of sugar? And then that refrigerator door that you've opened a million times suddenly eludes you? Things are just slightly off-kilter- you're having an "off" day. Watching GNR play last Saturday I was struck with that feeling multiple times. Dependable blockers who usually give consistent, reliable performances were missing hits and getting knocked off their line. Skaters who usually know exactly where they need to be seemed a little lost at times. Jammers who normally go balls-to-the-wall through the pack were pulling up short behind that wall of green. No one really had an awful night, it just felt like lots of pieces were a tad out of place. This makes it all the more frustrating to think about what could have happened if GNR had been on their game. Even despite the penalties, GNR could have pulled this one off had things just been going their way.
The good stuff
Okay, I'm done being a bummer. The fact is, GNR gave the #1-ranked High Rollers a run for their money. They managed to shut down the High Rollers' attempts to form back walls (which is kind of their thing) multiple times. GNR took the lead early, and they even got it back briefly towards the end of the first half. When they were down they chipped away at that point spread bit by bit and they never gave up. I sat at the edge of my seat the whole game, knowing that a well-timed 20-pt power jam could give GNR the edge to become the league's #1 team. Sadly, that break never came. But GNR kept the High Rollers on their toes all night long. The most HR was able to score in a single jam was 10 points. And with HR jammers like Sully Skullkicker, that's really saying something. I am so so proud of GNR for giving their loyal fans an exciting, close game. No more hour-long feeling of dread and nausea. No more 'oh geez, GNR is gonna get their asses handed to them'. I think I can safely say that those days are behind us. I put on my pink fishnets and my GNR shirt that night knowing that my favorite team had a real chance to win. And that is an awesome feeling.
You know what else is an awesome feeling? Working hard to improve an aspect of your skating and seeing that perseverance pay off. I'm talking about you, Supa Sixpack! No longer will I be screaming (in my head) "keep your arms down! Don't back-block! Don't back-block!" After being plagued by minors you made the effort to change your ways, and it showed by way of hardly any penalties the whole bout. Good on ya! And if I may, I'd like to single out a few more skaters: Roller Eclipse and Va Va BOOM. These ladies are excellent blockers and yet were alarmingly under-utilized in Saturday's bout. Eclipse has shown great pack awareness and is highly effective at positional blocking. And well, Va hits like a friggin' Mack truck. Both of these skaters are so quiet on the track that they often escape notice, but I definitely noticed both of them sitting on the bench way more that they should have. More jams for Eclipse and Va next time, please. Seriously. And speaking of awesome blocking: Untamed Shrew. I love her as a jammer, but boy is she an amazing blocker too! Talk about a double-threat! Shrew, you continue to amaze and inspire me.
When it comes down to it, the Guns N Rollers as a team continues to amaze me. It's a little early to be talking about championships, but I have a feeling we just saw a preview of our Season 7 Champs match-up. By June GNR will have had plenty of time to capitalize on all the hard work they've put in and to work out some of the lingering kinks. Although their strategies against the High Rollers only worked sporadically, it was so awesome to see them with a game plan. I cannot wait to see how the rest of the season shapes up. It's gonna be mental.
In case I don't have time to post a play-by-play before I leave for my exotic tropical adventure on Saturday (it's okay, be jealous), here are some numbers for you:
27: points scored by Supa Sixpack, GNR's high scorer
18: the number of times GNR earned lead jammer (over HR's 17!)
2.77: the average points per jam allowed by GNR blockers (2.77 is nothing, you guys). Well done!
The Guns N Rollers play their next bout on March 31st against the Break Neck Betties. Rock on! \m/ \m/