Responding to fans’ “One more jam! One more jam!” chant, referees elected to add two seconds onto the clock with two points separating two teams thrilling a packed Chapman Hill Ice Arena.
The referees, however, also agreed on subtracting one player.
Knowing the bout’s situation and having instinctively called off the preceding jam while lying on her back after plowing around a pack of resistance, what Durango Roller Girl Jennifer “Mutha Stucka” Stucka-Benally didn’t know was that, because of a miscommunication with the nearest official, she was in fact not the penultimate session’s lead jammer – the participant permitted to decide when to stop play.
“As jammers, you rely on what the refs are telling you. There’s a lot going on out there, so much to pay attention to, and sometimes things get lost,” the popular veteran said after, holding no grudge. “So, even though it was a mistake, because I called it off not being the lead jammer, I had to go to the box.”
The Roller Girls were unable to stall Derby Dames standout Alison “BAMPF” Chilen long enough before the swiftest Chupacabra squeezed through their penalty-killers and placed both hands on her hips, decisively halting the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association action and securing a 141-139 road win for the team out of Los Alamos, New Mexico.
“We actually had two plans,” explained Chilen, in regards to the decisive restart. “One if we needed me to just get through and then call it, and one if we needed to get a few points. We didn’t know if they were also going to award some points (during the officials’ meeting). So, everybody was very coordinated in order for us to get there.
“And as the sugar out of my brain dropped, everybody on the bench was really helpful to keep me there, and then I could just worry about making my next move.”
Durango’s Vanessa “Vandetta” Mytko was voted the Roller Girls’ overall MVP by the visiting team. She was credited with making the opposing jammer battle all bout.
“We’ve been in a rebuild’ year with low numbers, so coming into this bout with three visiting skaters we hadn’t skated with before,” Mytko said. “We had cohesiveness, great attitudes and they had great attitudes, and there was a lot of physical things happening out there, but overall this was so much fun because it was so close.”
With three members of the Salida-based ArkValley High Rollers on loan and in uniform, Durango steadily constructed a 37-32 lead before the first officials’ timeout of the first half, but about nine minutes later realized they were in for a fight as Los Alamos, paced by Chilen and Diana “Meep Meep” Melin, surged out to take a 75-56 lead with 7:20 remaining.
Relying upon a jammer rotation of Kelsey “Eager Beaver” Beaver, Stucka-Benally, and captain Celeste “D’Cell Punk” Hanson-Weller, the Roller Girls rallied to go on a 16-3 run and into halftime trailing by a manageable six points.
“We had three people we aren’t used to practicing with, so we had to kind of get in our groove out there,” said Beaver. “And it’s our first game of the season, so it just took us a while to get rolling.”
Their own roster augmented by members of Albuquerque-based Duke City Roller Derby, the Chupacabras had similar thinking as their once-imposing lead quickly crumbled into nothing with Beaver scoring three unanswered points on the second half’s initial jam, Stucka-Benally doing likewise on the second and Hanson-Weller taking the third by a 6-4 count to give DRG a sudden 84-82 advantage in their season opener.
“We played them last year, but their girls that are skating are newer, so we just had to reassess where their strengths were, where their weaknesses were and then take advantage of that,” said Stucka-Benally. “We just decided that we were going to go out there and have the time of our lives.”
After briefly slipping behind 94-92, Durango went up 96-94 and maxed it out at 126-118 before Los Alamos answered back with a 13-4 burst capped by H.C. “Fighting Girlfriend” Chamberlin’s motivating shorthanded effort that produced a 131-130 lead.
“We made a few adjustments at halftime; we wanted a little bit more of a cushion,” said Chamberlin, one of Los Alamos’ imports. “Clearly, they made adjustments too at halftime. We didn’t pull ahead as we wanted.”
Later named by the Roller Girls the guests’ Overall MVP, Chamberlin’s work gave the Los Alamos side an upper hand they’d ultimately hold, as their lead grew to 141-132 with only 2:15 remaining behind Chilen and Melin. Chilen was named the Outstanding Jammer for Los Alamos.
Beaver, ignoring a right ankle wracked three nights earlier in practice, trimmed the deficit back down to 141-135 with 0:44 left, and Stucka-Benally followed with a fast four-point haul, but in the end it wasn’t to be.
“Of course we’d want to win, but it’s all for the fun. It really is,” said Beaver, named by the Chupacabras DRG’s Outstanding Jammer. “I came in with an injury, so I was kind of worried about that, but it was all good.”
“She is a tough cookie, you know? This is, I believe, only her third season, and she has come so far,” Stucka-Benally said of her teammate. “What you witnessed out there was somebody who’s so dedicated to the sport, shows up and plays smart, plays hard. And you can see what she can get done.”
With numbers down for both teams, the players were happy to blend athletes from a variety of teams and put together a good show for the home fans.
“Some of the other rivals we used to skate with every year, their numbers have dwindled,” noted Mytko. “So, it’s good to still have so much derby happening, teams coming together. They were two teams coming together, we were two teams coming together, and that’s why Derby 101 is so important. There’s a lot of interest here, but we’ve just got to get them to the track and get ’em hooked.”
“That is probably something that we’re focusing on most this season, recruiting some more girls out,” Stucka-Benally stated. “If you have a lot of fun watching, you’ll have so much more fun playing.”