EUGENE, OR — The Helsinki All-Stars had two games on day one of The Big O, giving us a good glimpse at what this under-ranked Finnish team can do. They were already warmed up after getting into North America a week earlier and playing games against Terminal City and Rat City.
Ranked #63 in WFTDA, Helsinki’s competitiveness with these teams shows that they may not only be eligible for WFTDA playoffs this year, but are playing at a Division 1 level as well. At the Big O, they took on #24 Boston Massacre and the #17 Montreal New Skids on the Block, coming within close range at times, but losing their grasp with jammer penalties.
Helsinki took on Boston first, and Maya Mangleyou got the first lead jammer status of the game for the Massacre, escaping the pack before turn 1. Helsinki, picked up a cut for their efforts, leading to a 10-0 jam for Boston, and gave them the next lead status as well. Helsinki was able to earn their first lead while they had pack advantage and their blockers held the back. They picked up 10 points while Boston struggled to get out of the pack with no offensive help.
Helsinki got their jammer out first more after that, but only when Boston had blockers in the box. Boston favored a dynamic 3 wall, allowing them to rotate and trap Helsinki’s jammer, making it hard for them on their scoring pass. Boston’s jammers also put pressure on Helsinki, forcing early call offs and denying them points.
Helsinki’s jammers capitalized on Boston’s tendency to come in with big sweeping hits at the top and back of the pack, with agile footwork and juking to slip through. Their battle against Boston’s strong defense led to many jammer penalties though, and this allowed time for Boston to free their blockers from the box and regain control. They used a tight two wall to cage in a Helsinki blocker at the back, allowing their jammer easy passage through the pack.
The Massacre dominated the rest of the first half, while Helsinki’s jammers couldn’t stay out of the box and to further Helsinki’s woes, Boston requested and won an official review in the second to last jam of the half. They contested a no-call on Helsinki’s jammer for a low block that occurred in the last seconds of the jam. By the time the half was over, Boston led Helsinki, 85-47.
Helsinki’s defense favored a four wall in the first half, but switched to a bracing-style defense in the second, which helped them attain the first two lead jams. Their streak ended three minutes in with a high block by their jammer, but then Boston gave Helsinki their first power jam of the game. This allowed MIA to cut the deficit to 12 points. A run of lead calls in Helsinki’s favor allowed them to work on Boston’s lead, nickel and dime-ing their way to a 2 point game.
However, once again, jammer penalties plagued Helsinki as they sent two jammers to the box in consecutive jams. This gave Boston the opportunity to extend their lead slightly, and was the break they needed to reclaim the momentum. They let one jam run long to take full advantage of the blocker penalties that stacked up for Helsinki, and put up 19 points. At the end of the jam, Helsinki’s jammer then committed a low block, leaving them to defend a power jam for the third jam in a row.
A few more back and forth power jams led to a tense and chaotic game, but Boston utilized an aggressive bracing wall to limit Helsinki’s scoring. After each team took a swing with momentum, it ended in a 12 point game, 160-148 going to Boston.
Later in the afternoon on Track 2, Helsinki played another game against Montreal, and MIA got Helsinki on the board first while her blockers’ strong defense held Montreal’s jammer back. After two jams, Montreal took the lead and then control of the game while they held back Helsinki’s jammer for multiple passes.
It wasn’t until ten minutes into the first half this time that Helsinki gave up their first power jam, but their defense held strong and only allowed the New Skids 5 points. A few jams later, Montreal returned the favor, and Helsinki was able to get multiple scoring passes for 19 points before they sent their jammer back to the box. Immediately following her was Montreal’s jammer however, creating a jammerless start to the next jam.
As in the previous game, Helsinki gave up many power jams, but they also picked up a 19-point jam later as Taru Saxelin flew around the outside line, untouched for multiple grand slams. This, along with a well executed power jam of their own, let Helsinki cut Montreal’s lead to 99-71. That effort was responded to with a 25-point jam by Montreal, ending the half with the Canadians on top, 124-71.
Helsinki started strong in the second half, earning lead but could not pick up points as an aggressive jammer on jammer play by Montreal forced a call off. Helsinki put up a tough fight, but a combination of jammer penalties and a lack of coordinated offense contributed to Montreal’s success on the track.
With 17 minutes left in the game, Maria scored 23 points to bring the score to 159-130, and Taru cut the deficit even further in the next jam. Following that, Helsinki won an official review that requested a back block be assessed to Montreal’s jammer, which gave MIA a power start. After that was all said and done, the score stood 159-148, with Montreal hanging onto the lead by 11 points.
Helsinki’s momentum was growing strong, but despite 4-2 pack advantage, Miracle Whips was able to pick up lead for Montreal. She was not able to call it of in time however, before Helsinki could score 3 points, but a cut on MIA opened things up for Montreal to regain the momentum once more.
Mel E Juana was sent to the box, which left Taru on a power jam, but the advantage did not last as Taru went to the box on a cut. Late in the game, MIA was having a brutal jam and Miracle Whips took advantage. She scored 20 points while MIA passed the star successfully, but a back block penalty sent Helsinki’s new jammer to the box.
Despite Helsinki’s rally in the second half, and getting as close as 7 points, Montreal pulled away in the last quarter of game, winning 285-175.
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