Skate Odyssey: Tiger Bay Nibbles Helsinki, 168-165

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GENT, BELGIUM–The first semifinal of Skate Odyssey promised a lot. It featured two of Europe’s up-and-coming leagues both known for their intelligence, speed and brutal hitting, and it didn’t disappoint. While it looked at the half like it might be a comfortable with for the Welsh team, the Finns brutally exploited some second-half jammer penalty trouble to come back hard… but after taking the lead in the final minutes, Tiger Bay took the win at the death, 168-165.

It took six jams for Tiger Bay to blow the bout open, but blow it open they did. Just as Helsinki looked to be gaining a measure of control, Santos and Lola Coaster set to work on Deadbeat Debby and let Billie Pistol throw up the first multiple-pass jam of the bout.

Boba Fettish build on the lead to make it 31-12, but Chant Hell hit the box on a forearm call in jam ten to let Mirkkuli and Heli Runteli make it a five-point game while she was off the track.

But when Fisu slid into Kid Block’s rear next jam she handed Fettish a chance to restore the lead. What was five was swiftly 25–and Fisu was still sat in the box.

Bloxie Blackout struggled with Nina Erwes but still made the lead 40 as Fisu wrestled with Block and Devaskator. That 40-point lead was maintained into the final ten minutes of the half as both teams let pack speeds rise to burn blocker penalties, and both packs repeatedly sent opposing jammers to the floor with hard high-speed hitting. Dos Santos was particularly effective here, winding Runteli with one particularly vicious hip check to the gut as the half drew to a close.

That hit took the wind out of Helsinki’s sails as well as Runteli’s lungs as Tiger Bay extended their lead in the final jams of the half. The Finnish section of the crowd found their voices as the half wound down–but while it briefly energised their jammers, Debby was boxed after a cut forced by Kid Block as the period clock hit zero. The half ended 113-46 to Tiger Bay, and with Debby still in the box.

Kid Block didn’t manage to put points up before Debby was released thanks to Nina Erwes and Blocking Molly’s solid slow defence, and was forced into a 4-0 call after Debby raced clear on her first pass.

Jammer musical chairs in jam two saw Billie Pistol hit the box for cutting twice–but Thrill Collins tag-teamed Runteli with Santos to kill the only penalty which stuck and limit her to a single five-point pass.

The advantage of being able to claim the jam line first combined with strong offence from Helsinki after that, as started to tell as they began to consistently pick up lead jammer calls. Unfortunately for the Finns the holes left in their defence meant they couldn’t make much of a dent in the Tiger Bay lead that hovered around the 60-point mark until the mid-way point of the half.
Chant Hell then gave Runteli a chance to finally bring the game back towards Helsinki as she was boxed on an elbow. When she emerged from the box in the next jam Runteli and Mirkkuli had only cut the gap to 41 with 13 minutes left in the bout.

Fettish hit the box within seconds of the next jam starting–but Fisu was boxed on her first scoring pass to kill off any immediate thoughts of a Helsinki run to come back into it. That two-minuter left it 150-105, and just as it began to look like time was seriously running out for Helsinki, Runteli showed it decidedly was not as she took anotehr big chunk out of the Tiger Bay lead with an 18-2 jam that was only ended by a successful Tiger Bay star pass saw Kid Block break out and force the call.

With five minutes to go Kid Block was boxed on a forearm with the star, and Mirkkuli wasted no time at all cutting the deficit to 15 points before Block returned. The lead was 11 when that jam expired and Tiger Bay froze the clock at 3:19 with a request for an official review.

Jam 22 started with a 4:2 pack advantage for Helsinki. Runteli burst through for lead before Chant Hell was boxed after a cut forced by Sara Mack-eh. Runteli gave Helsinki the lead just as Hell was released–and added one more pass to leave Helsinki with a 165-158 lead with 1:14 left as an OTO stopped the clock.

This time it was Tiger Bay who held the pack advantage though, and it was Bloxie who burst out for lead. She put up 9 to make it 167-165 in Tiger Bay’s favour.

25 seconds remained; three blockers were on the track for each team. Just as the final jam was about to start a final time-out for Tiger Bay ratcheted up the tension. Kid Block got lead then killed her speed–and called it at 0-0 to make the game safe.

Tiger Bay finished 168-165 winners and proceed to tomorrow’s final; Helsinki will play off for third place.

An earlier version of this story had a far inferior headline. Derby News Network would like to thank the Reverend Norb for his invaluable advice, and regrets not being able to make the micturation pun work.

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