The Calgary Inferno had a successful week. They had a dominating win over the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays and they broke some barriers this weekend.
Let’s check out this past week in Inferno news.
Four Nations Cup
Last week, we found out that five Inferno players made the Team Canada roster for the Four Nations Cup. This week, Team USA released their roster and three more players made it: G Alex Rigsby, D Kacey Bellamy, and F Brianna Decker.
Team Finland has yet to release their roster but as I mentioned last week, we can probably assume that Venla Hovi will make the team.
The Inferno will be hosting a viewing party for the Four Nations Cup gold medal game on Nov. 10. Tickets can be found here.
The Inferno played in their home-opener on Saturday against the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays and another game on Sunday morning. Last season, the Inferno were dominating on home ice, having just one regulation loss and two in overtime and the shootout.
Noora Raty started in net for the Rays. The last time Raty played against the Inferno in the CWHL semis, she didn’t let a single shot get past her in almost six periods in one game. She stopped all 66 shots she faced where the Inferno lost to the Kunlun Red Star in triple overtime.
That wasn’t the case this weekend.
Saturday’s game started out pretty back and forth between the two teams in the first period. It was somewhat uneventful with both teams playing a strong defensive game. The Inferno took a couple of penalties, but after some strong penalty killing against Les Canadiennes last weekend with arguably the best powerplay unit in the league, there was confidence in their penalty killing, and the Inferno successfully killed them both off. They had a few shorthanded chances, but nothing that was too much for Raty to handle.
The second period was definitely faster and the players had more energy. The Rays had a couple of good chances early on, but gold medallist Rigsby stopped everything she saw. At 3:14 into the period, Bellamy found Decker ahead of the play and Decker’s quick hands made it 1-0.
This Brianna Decker girl is pretty good hey? pic.twitter.com/En2Jc2UDMT
— Calgary Inferno (@InfernoCWHL) October 22, 2018
Shortly after, the Inferno continued to apply the pressure and Zoe Hickel had a great chance that somehow didn’t go into the net. The Inferno then went on the powerplay and Brianne Jenner had an opportune tip-in right in front of Raty which was stopped. They had some great chances in the dying seconds of the powerplay, but nothing found the back of the net.
Midway through this period, Jenner was taken down on a breakaway which resulted in a penalty shot. Very close chance for Jenner but Raty knew exactly where to place her pad at the last second.
Late in the period, both teams took penalties so we saw some 4-on-4 action. Defender Tori Hickel noticed a few players on her sister Zoe, and with nobody on her, went right to the net, received the feed from her sister, and made it 2-0. That was Hickel’s first CWHL goal.
The third period was very fast-paced. The Rays were pushing at the start, but the Inferno weren’t letting them get good scoring chances and kept them passing around the perimeter. It seemed like the Rays were playing more of a defensive game than they should have been about midway through, but credit goes to the Inferno for not giving them opportune chances. While it was a very fast period, it went scoreless for either team, so the Inferno won this one 2-0 and Rigsby recorded her first CWHL shutout.
But I think the most important thing about this game is that the Inferno finally solved Raty, who later explained that the altitude made it hard for them to breathe.
Sunday’s game started with the Rays’ Hannah Miller intercepting a pass from Decker, but she shot it wide on Rigsby. Quite unusual for Decker to have her pass intercepted like that, but that’s probably the only time we’ll ever see that. Right after that chance, the Inferno had some jump and outplayed the Rays in the first half of the period. Just before the midway mark, Aina Mizukami shot a rocket from the blue line and beat Raty.
The rest of the period was dominating for the Inferno. This period finished 1-0, but the Inferno outshot the Rays 16-6.
Early in the second period, some tic-tac-toe passing from Rebecca Leslie to Zoe Hickel to Rebecca Johnston made it 2-0. It was a fantastic play and not much Raty could have done about it. Shortly after, Brigette Lacquette took a penalty which they killed off until the Rays took a penalty, so we saw some 4-on-4 action for about 40 seconds. Decker had a one-timer during that 4-on-4, but Raty squeezed her pads shut and didn’t let the puck through.
Later in the period, the Rays had a quick deflection right in front of Rigsby which I thought was a for-sure goal, but she stopped it. However moments after, Hannah Bunton of the Rays cut the lead to one and Rigsby’s shutout streak ended at 145:49.
But the Inferno answered right back a minute later. Hovi saw a shot from Jenner at the point and put her stick where it needed to be for the tip-in. Hovi scoring on Raty, a longtime national teammate and friend of hers, was a great way to get her first CWHL goal.
This period ended 3-1 for the Inferno and it seemed like they were getting most of the quality chances.
The third period saw the Inferno take an early penalty. The Rays had some close chances but Rigsby came up big. Right as the penalty expired, Decker scored to make it 4-1… or so we thought. There were apparently issues with the clock jumping, so they overturned the goal and everyone is still confused about what happened.
No problem though, because the Inferno got their goal back just a couple minutes later with a shot from the point by Halli Krzyzaniak. Krzyzaniak was the Inferno’s first pre-draft signing at this year’s draft and that was her first CWHL goal.
A few minutes later, Krzyzaniak was feeling it and got the puck over to Jenner who one-timed it past Raty. With the Inferno leading 5-1, the Rays made a goaltending change with Kimberly Newell playing the remainder of the game. It was very odd and rare for Raty to let in five goals in a game. She’s arguably one of the best goaltenders in the world and went 27 straight games prior to this allowing four goals or less in a game.
Two minutes later, Decker got her goal back with a wrist shot right in front of Newell. This game ended 6-1 with the Inferno outshooting the Rays 43-20.
This past weekend wasn’t only a success in terms of the score. On Saturday morning, the inaugural edition of Inside the Inferno was live on Sportsnet 960. This is part of 960’s Hockey Talk segment, with Inside the Inferno a new 30-minute addition to it.
Sunday’s game was broadcasted on 960 as well with live play-by-play and colour commentating. This was the first time this has ever been done, with 960 being the first radio station to do live play-by-play of the CWHL.
960 will be broadcasting four home games throughout the season which is a small start, but it’s huge and looks promising for growing the game. If this is successful, which I imagine it will be, they’ll look to increase the number of games and could inspire other radio stations to follow suit.
What’s coming up
The Inferno’s next games are this weekend against the Worcester Blades, who relocated from Boston this offseason. The Blades have lost their first four games and are already -12 in goal differential. The Inferno are +12.
The Inferno have partnered with Grindstone Award Foundation to introduce the Inferno Charity Skills Clinic, which is taking place Nov. 3 and 4. The two-day clinic will give the opportunity to aspiring female hockey players to learn from the Inferno as they share teach their on-ice skills and share some in-depth knowledge. Registration is still open and details can be found here.