In order for St. Louis-based GateKeepers Roller Derby (GKRD) to claim their third straight international title in the Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) this weekend, they’ll have to take their farthest journey to date.
Over 4,000 miles to be exact…and they are perfectly fine with that.
The two-time defending champs possess the top seed at this weekend’s “Cymru Clash” that begins Friday at Cwmbran Stadium in Cwmbran, South Wales, United Kingdom. In the bracketed tournament, St. Louis meets the winner of an earlier-held Vancouver (CAN)/Manchester (UK) quarterfinal qualifier at 3 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time (9 a.m. St. Louis time).
Winners of 17 straight MRDA-sanctioned games over the past two years, the GateKeepers (8-0) have displayed the dominance this season that leads to optimism of a “three-peat.” This calendar year, St. Louis has collectively outscored their opponents, 2832-444. Whoa!
Regardless of that mind-numbing statistic, the local rollers have been perpetually, and confidently, preparing for the upcoming trophy sprint.
“The team looks great,” said GateKeepers co-captain Magnum P.I.M.P. during a recent practice held at Midwest Sport Hockey in Ballwin. “We’ve got a couple of little ‘ding’ injuries, but nothing that’s going to keep (anyone) out of any upcoming games. Everyone’s looking great, their fitness is great and the teamwork is really solid right now. I’m loving where we’re at.”
Alongside the co-captain, jamming will be paced by veterans Corey Porter, Shane Bower, David Metcalfe and ScreechAround.
The quintet will be anchored by the blocking schema of MRDA Champs returnees Percy Controll, Bled Zeppelin’, Spin Diesel, The Doc, The Saint, Double Excel, Hulk, Monster Jam, Sir Nix-A-Lot and Wrecking Bill. Kenbo Slice, Uttendorf, Last Rites, Lumberjerk and Bruno Scars are also listed on the weekend charter.
A dozen skaters in the current GateKeepers’ complexion already possess a pair of MRDA gold medals that were claimed in the past two post-season cycles. Heading into the highly-competitive weekend, Magnum feels that his squad’s depth will be instrumental against the other global entrants.
“Our roster is extremely deep,” he said. “We have the luxury of a five jammer rotation and actually having one to spare if someone gets injured. It gives us an insurance policy. We actually have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to our jammers and blockers.”
A Friday victory secures a Saturday semifinal game against either fourth-seeded San Diego Aftershocks (6-1) or fifth-seeded New York Shock Exchange (5-1).
Although the GateKeepers have not met either team on the flat-track this season, safe money predicts a “Final Four” triumph for the Gateway City unless either a East Coast or West Coast upset rears its head.
If the brackets stay true to seed and the top two squads meet at Sunday’s championship game, St. Louis would compete against the feisty Bridgetown Menace (Portland, OR). At last year’s MRDA Championships, the Menace (6-1) reached the tourney’s semifinals for the first time in their league’s seven-year history. That boost in the portfolio added to a MRDA worldwide rankings’ climb this year and a second seed for the weekend.
Adding to potential trophy game intrigue, the two teams met in May at the Big O invitational held in Eugene, Oregon and the GateKeepers snared a heart-stopping victory by a whisker, 134-132.
“We won that game but we treated it like a loss,” assessed Magnum. “Sometimes a loss can benefit a team because it hones your training and it lets you see what your weaknesses are. We looked at that game as ‘what bit us in the butt.’ It definitely fueled us.”
A third straight MRDA title claimed Sunday would catapult the GateKeepers into legacy status. They will have won the same amount of championship trophies as the now-defunct Your Mom Men’s Roller Derby (Des Moines, IA). However, longevity combined with overall post-season medals collected will arguably designate them as the most-successful franchise in men’s flat-track roller derby history.
“I think we can make that claim because we would have three championships, two silvers and one bronze and no other team could say that,” said Magnum. “Hopefully, that’s the goal.”
And if the goal needs to be claimed across the pond, it’s the mission that the GateKeepers are more than happy to accept.
For more information on GateKeepers Roller Derby, go to their official website.
Arch City Sports will provide updates throughout the weekend.