The Ann Arbor Brawlstars were buzzing with excitement at the chance for a rematch against Pittsburgh’s Steel Hurtin’. The two teams first met in September 2016 at Division One playoffs, resulting in a close game. Although the Brawlstars held the lead at half time with a score of 144 to 115, Steel City’s experience at a higher level of play won through. The Brawlstars got into some jammer penalty trouble and Steel City brought back the game to end with a score of 205 to 258.
The Brawlstars were disappointed by the loss, but they were thrilled to have had the opportunity to play in a Division One tournament. They used their losses from playoffs to fuel their off season training and started the 2017 season strong with a win against Madison's Mad Rollin Dolls (180 to 154). Even with this win under the Brawlstars’ belt, Flat Track Stats predicted Steel City to win the March 25th rematch, although predicting it to be a very close game. The Brawlstars were the underdogs in the Chatterbox Pick Ems selections as well. Despite predictions against them, the Brawlstars felt they could win this tough rematch.
The first time the Brawlstars and Steel City met, the Brawlstars were missing two key players-- Slamlet, their co-captain, and Fracture Mechanics, a powerhouse triple threat. One player can't win a game, but the absence of both Slamlet and Fracture was a blow to the Brawlstars for their last game of playoffs. With several players retiring from Steel City after playoffs, the Brawlstars knew the rematch would be tough but that they had a chance of coming out on top this time.
When the Brawlstars arrived at the Steel Hurtin’ venue, they took some time to warm up and get used to the floor. Adjusting to differences in floors is always a part of playing derby on the road. The Steel Hurtin’ bout was held on a basketball court, a smooth floor with a lot of stick, and lines of many different colors all over the floor. The Brawlstars had to pay extra attention to which lines were part of the track and which ones weren't.
The Brawlstars got off to a rocky start in the first half of the rematch. Steel Hurtin’ took first blood, but by a few jams in, the Brawlstars had hit their stride. Ann Arbor took the lead and maintained it for the rest of the bout. The Brawlstar blockers were encouraged by their captains to ignore the scoreboard as a part of maintaining a positive mental game. At half time, it was a pleasant surprise for some of the Brawlstar blockers who thought they were down to see a score of 140 to 46 in favor of A2D2! Thirty more minutes of their best roller derby brought the final score to 340 to 87.
The return of Fracture Mechanics after her ankle injury last season was certainly a boon for the Brawlstars. The difference Fracture can make on the track is best described by one jam when Fracture effectively swept an entire Steel City wall from the inside line to out of bounds on the outside by herself, clearing the entire track for the Brawlstars jammer.
The recent addition of Helen Killer, a transfer from Detroit Roller Derby, was also notable for the Brawlstars. She was one of their high point scorers for the night.
This bout will be a nice boost for the Brawlstars’ rankings, and the team is excited to continue smashing expectations this season.
Stay tuned for the next time Brawlstars play, which will be April 7-9 at the Boardwalk Empire tournament in Santa Cruz, California.
Just Wingett is a Brawlstars triple threat and captain of Ann Arbor Bruising Company.