You know the saying “It was 4-1”? It’s in reference to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ inability to close out their playoff series to the Boston Bruins back in 2013, despite entering the third period with a 4-1 lead. It was 4-1, and they lost it.
For the Calgary Inferno, this past weekend’s theme was “It was 4-0”. And while the scores didn’t stay 4-0, the Inferno came away with two victories, and now sit alone at the top of the CWHL.
It was Wickfest this past weekend, with 99 teams playing in Winsport, among other arenas. One of the stars of the weekend was, naturally, Hayley Wickenheiser, as she herself showed mere seconds after puck drop for the Inferno’s first game against the Brampton Thunder.
It took just 16 seconds for Jill Saulnier to open the scoring for the Inferno, with Wickenheiser drawing the assist.
From there, the Inferno piled it on. Rookie Elana Lovell scored two, while Kristin Hagg had a goal of her own to give the Inferno a 4-0 lead over the Thunder just over halfway through their first game of the weekend. They were outplaying Brampton, and with a four goal lead, looked safe – even when Thunder forward Jamie Lee Rattray scored late in the second period to get her team on the board.
But then early in the third period, Jenna McParland made it a 4-2 game as the Thunder started to shift the tide. Things got especially tense when Jess Jones added a power play marker in the game’s final five minutes, leaving the Inferno, suddenly unable to get control of the puck, scrambling as they fought to preserve what became a mere one-goal lead.
They succeeded, and heart rates could return to normal.
Except for when history almost repeated itself on the second game of the weekend.
Again, the Inferno jumped out to a 4-0 lead, courtesy of goals by Jessica Campbell, Erica Kromm, Saulnier, and Blayre Turnbull. It even looked like it was going to be a 5-0 lead, courtesy of Wickenheiser, but her goal was waved off due to a high stick.
Nevertheless, the Thunder, who had started backup Liz Knox, were shaken. Even though the fifth goal didn’t count, Knox was pulled from the game, and the Thunder’s starter from the first game, Erica Howe, entered the game.
Delayne Brian, who started both of Calgary’s games this past weekend, had yet to give up a goal through two periods, and the Inferno entered the final period of their weekend still up 4-0 in what was becoming an increasingly chippy game. (If you think women’s hockey isn’t physical, you’re wrong; the board battles are intense and there is the occasional open ice hit, even if those aren’t supposed to happen, and they can be pretty awesome).
At least until Brampton’s Sarah Edney scored just two minutes into the third period. Her teammate Jocelyne Larocque made it a 4-2 game seven minutes later, filling the stands with uneasy murmurs if this game would turn out like the one previous.
That was all the Thunder had in them, though. Whereas in the first game the Inferno struggled to control the puck as Brampton fought hard for the tying goal, in the second game, Calgary gained control, and Lovell scored her third goal of the weekend into an empty net, sealing the 5-2 victory for the Inferno.
Lovell now sits at second overall in CWHL scoring with seven goals and 15 points over 10 games played, behind only to Montreal’s Marie-Philip Poulin. A handful of her teammates sit in the top 10 for scoring; Campbell is over a point-per-game player with 10 in eight games, while captain Brianne Jenner, as well as Brittany Esposito, have 10 in 10 each. Wickenheiser is 12th in the league, with nine points through 10 games.
As for the Inferno as a whole, their 9-1 record is indeed at the top of the CWHL. Les Canadiennes are still nipping at their heels, however, with a 7-1 record, having played two fewer games; both teams’ losses are to each other. Brampton left Calgary a 6-4 team, good for third in the CWHL standings.
The Inferno are back in action at home next weekend, when they host the Toronto Furies at Winsport on Saturday, Dec. 5, at 6:15 p.m. They have a game on Sunday, Dec. 6 as well – 12:30 p.m. – up in Olds, so if you’re in the area, it’s as perfect a time as any to check them out. It’s some of the best hockey you’ll find in Alberta nowadays.