Calgary Inferno set to defend Clarkson Cup; 2016-17 CWHL season begins

It’s October, and October means hockey.

The Hitmen’s season is already underway. Soon, the Flames will be going, too. But tonight, hockey in Calgary belongs to a different team, as the 2015-16 Clarkson Cup champion Calgary Inferno officially kick off their 2016-17 season.

The season begins tonight, at 7:45 p.m. in Winsport’s Markin MacPhail Centre, in the ‘A’ arena. Tickets are available for just $15.

The Inferno host the Brampton Thunder this weekend. The Thunder were the last team to come to Calgary, back in February of this year, for the CWHL’s semifinals. The Inferno beat the Thunder in back-to-back contests – first by a score of 4-2, then 4-3 – to earn the right to play for the Clarkson Cup.

The favourites to win the Cup were Les Canadiennes, who had been the top team in the CWHL throughout the regular season. It was a performance they couldn’t replicate in the championship game, however, as the Inferno put on a dominating performance. 

A team that had a habit of scoring its way out of trouble, the Inferno got two goals apiece from Rebecca Johnston, Brianne Jenner, Jessica Campbell, and Blayre Turnbull, not to mention MVP-worthy goaltending from Delayne Brian – all of whom are back with the team this year – to win their first championship by a score of 8-3.

Skaters

Quite a lot of the Inferno roster is returning. In addition to Johnston, Jenner, Campbell, and Turnbull, Bailey Bram, Sarah Davis, Brittany Esposito, Jillian Saulnier, Louise Warren, Laura DostalerHayleigh Cudmore, Erica Kromm, Jacquie Pierri, and Aina Takeuchi are all set to return, as is the 2016 rookie of the year, Elana Lovell. Haley Irwin was unable to play during the 2015-16 season due to injury, but she’s back, too.

Plus it’s worth noting that a couple of players who had to miss a significant portion of the previous season – Johnston, as well as defenders Brigette Lacquette and Meaghan Mikkelson – are all returning and set to go as well.

Oh, plus someone named Hayley Wickenheiser. You’ve probably never heard of her.

A particularly intriguing addition to the roster is Russian forward Iya Gavrilova. The 29-year-old has worn a letter for Russia internationally and put together absolutely dominant seasons for the U of C Dinos. She led CIS women’s hockey in scoring last season with 43 points in 28 games – as if the Inferno needed even more firepower.

Also joining the team are rookies Katelyn Gosling and Akane Hosoyamada, who were selected by the Inferno in the 2016 CWHL Draft.

Goalies

Other interesting additions for the Inferno are a pair of goaltenders. Brian put together an incredible performance at the Clarkson Cup, but she also had the worst save percentage out of all CWHL starters in 2015-16 with .890%.

In contrast, Genevieve Lacasse is now with the Inferno. She spent her 2015-16 season playing for a Boston Blades team that struggled, often giving up 50+ shots a night – and still, she posted a .904 save percentage. It’ll be really interesting to see what she can do with a more complete team in front of her.

But that’s not where the goaltending additions end. The Inferno’s first pick of the 2016 draft was Emerance Maschmeyer, who you may remember from her stellar performance at the Women’s World Championships as she faced off against American counterpart Alex Rigsby. Maschmeyer helped backstop her country to silver, giving up just one goal as Team Canada lost 1-0 in overtime of the gold medal game; she posted a .956 save percentage throughout the tournament, following up her .938 in 26 games while playing for Harvard in the NCAA.

So… this looks to be a pretty amazing team.

Opening weekend

A reminder that the Inferno’s season kicks off tonight, at 7:45 p.m. at Winsport’s Markin MacPhail Centre’s ‘A’ arena (that’s the big one right at the entrance). Tickets can be purchased for just $15. If you can’t make it in person, the game will be streamed online for free!

The Inferno will also be playing the Thunder in their second game of the season on Oct. 9, at 9:15 a.m. at the Stampede Corral, which is guaranteed to be pretty awesome.