Photo Credit: Dave Holland

The More You Inferknow: Season update

When we last updated you on the Inferno, they were preparing for their season and I was peppering Erica Kromm and Taryn Baumgardt with questions like: “Do you think the Inferno are going to be able to maintain their dominance?” and “Are you sure that you guys are going to still be amazing?” The rationale for my continued questioning was essentially that the Inferno were going to have a tougher time this season, due to the fact that their roster was decimated by Olympic centralization.

At every turn, both players insisted that this would not be the case and, so far this season, damn, they were right. The Inferno have played six games this year and have yet to lose in regulation. They sport a 5-0-1 record, a league-best +14 goal differential, and sit atop the CWHL with 11 points. However, it should be noted that the second-place Montreal Canadiennes have two games at hand and are 4-0-0. 

Erica Kromm scores the game winner as the Calgary Inferno host the Markham Thunder Star in a CWHL game at the Markin McPhail Centre at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary, Alberta on November 4, 2017.

I caught up with Kromm again, now named the Inferno’s captain, to ask her about how the season has gone so far. First of all, I asked her about being named team captain:

Being named captain for our team this season has obviously been a huge honour. We’ve got a great leadership group and we work together to point the team in the right direction. It wasn’t something I necessarily prepared for. I was just preparing for the season in general. It also doesn’t really change my outlook on the season. My goals and the goals of the team have remained the same.

It is an undoubtedly a difficult task being named a team captain during a year of immense roster turnover. I asked Kromm about what she thinks makes a good team captain and, from her own career, who was the best captain she’s ever had:

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This is a hard question because I think a good captain can have a number of different styles, just like coaches do. But I’d have to say, some of the best captains I’ve had were those who genuinely cared about their teammates on and off the ice and were true to themselves.They didn’t change who they were to fit a role and they were always the ones doing the little things right on the ice. They were also very selfless people. When I’m listing off these qualities three names come to mind: Brenna McLean, Hayley Moore, and Brianne Jenner. These are captains I’ve had who completely embody what it means to be selfless, truly care for their teammates, and do the little things right.

A theme emerges when reading Kromm’s answers: continuity. Before the season started, this was important, and she remains steadfast. When asked how the new players were fitting into the Inferno roster, Kromm, ever the stoic captain, responded:

All of our new players are just as capable of bringing the team success as previous Inferno players were. Our capability comes from our willingness to learn and grow through a focused, hard work ethic and positive outlook. We lost some fantastic hockey players, but we’ve also gained and kept some spectacular ones.

One of these new “spectacular” players that Kromm is referring to is Inferno rookie Sophie Shirley from Saskatoon. At only 18 years old, Shirley has a bright future ahead of her and has come out of the gates on, well, fire (forgive me). She has been no stranger to filling the net, scoring 37 points in 24 games for the Notre Dame Hounds of the Junior Women’s Hockey League. This year, she’s brought more of the same to the Inferno, tallying seven points in six games so far. Kromm described some of this season’s surprising contributions from new players and returning veterans:

As athletes, we often don’t give ourselves as much credit as we should when it comes to how capable we are of being successful. All of the players on our team have grown so much just within the past month. Everyone has surprised me, including myself.If I had to be specific about who I’ve been the most surprised with on our team it would have to be our two youngest players, Sophie [Shirley] and Kennedy [Brown, another 18-year-old Inferno rookie]. I’m surprised not by their skill level, but by how quickly they’ve been able to adapt to what the coaches and team has been asking of them. Mentally, that is not something that’s easy for an 18-year-old to grasp, let alone a 25-year-old. They are fully committed and it’s inspiring to see.

Though reluctant to boast in her answers, Kromm’s season is off to a great start individually. Earlier in the season, Kromm mentioned that she’d be willing to play any position, either forward or defense, in order to help the team win. This year, that has meant playing forward, and she has already put herself on pace for a career-year offensively. Scoring two goals and an assist in her first six games, Kromm seems to have made the transition back to playing forward seamlessly. Don’t expect her to speak too much about her own stats, though:

As before, I’ve just been focusing on whatever it takes to help the team be successful. Backchecking and blocking shots are just as crucial as scoring goals and getting assists. If I can do any of those things and it helps the team, then that’s great.

The Inferno continue their season this weekend in Toronto against the Furies for a pair of back-to-back games Nov. 11 and 12. Currently, the Furies sit in fifth in the CWHL with a record of 2-2-0.

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