The Calgary Inferno were back in the city for another weekend series as they faced the defending Clarkson Cup champs, the Markham Thunder. Let’s check out how it went down.
After about a month and a half, the Inferno finally revealed their captains, voted by the rest of the players. Rebecca Johnston has been named the captain, with Brianne Jenner and Zoe Hickel acting as the alternates at home and Blayre Turnbull and Brianna Decker as the alternates on the road.
This game started out with a great chance by Hickel on a breakaway, but she wasn’t able to tuck the puck in. Shortly after, Alex Rigsby came up and made a great save before Jenna McParland opened up the scoring at the 7:57 mark. Around the midway mark, the Thunder took a penalty so the Inferno went on the powerplay, which is normally quite successful.
On the PP, Turnbull had a breakaway attempt which was stopped, but that was basically the only good chance for the Inferno. In the dying minutes of the period, the Inferno had a couple more good chances, but nothing got past Erica Howe.
The Thunder started the second period by taking an early penalty, so the Inferno had another powerplay. But like their first one, they weren’t able to capitalize on their chances, and this one also went scoreless. A few minutes later, Turnbull took a penalty so the Thunder got their first powerplay of the game. And unlike the Inferno, they were able to capitalize with a goal from Victoria Bach.
Late in the period, Turnbull passed it back to Jenner who noticed Rebecca Leslie going towards the net, got it over to her, and the Inferno cut the lead to one. Shortly after that goal, the Inferno had their third powerplay of the night, but again, they didn’t do a great job of getting good shots towards the net, and this powerplay went scoreless.
At the start of the third period, Markham had a great chance which Rigsby stopped. A couple minutes later, Hickel tied the game up by a feed from Johnston. After that goal, the Inferno had a few good chances on Howe, all of which she stopped. Late in the period, Katelyn Gosling had a glorious chance on Howe, but again, she stopped it as well, so this one needed extra time.
In overtime, the Thunder had the majority of the better chances and Rigsby had to come up with two huge saves, one within the last minute of OT. But since nothing happened, this one needed a shootout.
In the shootout, only Kristen Barbara for the Thunder managed to score, so they won this one 3-2. Unfortunately for the Inferno, this ended their nine-game win streak. If they had made it 10 games, it would have tied a club record. The Thunder broke a 17-game losing streak in Calgary with their first win in Calgary since Oct. 28, 2012, when they were still the Brampton Thunder and the Inferno were the Alberta Honeybadgers.
While the Inferno outshot the Thunder 46-30, it still wasn’t the best game we’ve seen them play this season. Not a lot of their shots were high-danger chances and their powerplay was lacking a lot. It could be a result of playing on a smaller rink than they’re used to, but there’s no sense in making excuses.
Sunday’s game started out much better than Saturday’s. Less than a minute in, the Thunder took a penalty so the Inferno had an early powerplay. On this PP, it was much better than Saturday’s as they made better passing plays and managed to successfully set the puck up. With a feed from Kacey Bellamy, Leslie opened up the scoring for the Inferno again and gave them the 1-0 lead.
But the Thunder answered back less than two minutes later with a goal by Jamie Lee Rattray. The Thunder took another penalty a couple minutes later and while Turnbull had a great shot on Liz Knox, this one went scoreless. In the middle of the period, Venla Hovi was fed a puck which almost resulted in a breakaway attempt, but the puck was a little faster than she was, and she couldn’t quite get to it.
A few minutes later, Hovi had another great chance with a tip in front of the net, but Knox stopped that one, too. Late in the period, Rattray took a roughing penalty (something she was very clearly not happy about) and the Inferno headed to the powerplay. One minute later, the Thunder took another penalty, so the Inferno had a 5on3 for 12 seconds until the end of the period.
The Inferno started the second period on a 5on3 powerplay and did a great job of moving the puck around. It paid off because Inferno’s leading scorer Johnston made it 2-1 and gave the Inferno the lead back. Since it was still on the 5on3, the Inferno still had a powerplay, which they again were able to capitalize on, and Turnbull made it 3-1 less than a minute later.
Shortly after, Kelly Murray took a penalty so the Thunder went on the powerplay. They weren’t able to set up successfully, so this powerplay went scoreless for them. Right after, Jess Jones had a great chance on Rigsby, but she was stopped.
A few minutes later, Leslie and Brianna Decker both had great chances on Knox, except the first was blocked and Decker’s shot went wide. With about five minutes remaining in the period, Laura Stacey cut the lead to one. But just 31 seconds later, Zoe Hickel gave the Inferno the two-goal lead again with an assist from Johnston.
Seconds later, the Inferno went on the penalty kill again and, like the rest of this game, the Thunder powerplay wasn’t very successful. And one of the best penalty killers, Hovi, took advantage to get a shorthanded goal, assisted by Zoe Hickel, another excellent penalty killer. The rest of the powerplay was unsuccessful for the Thunder and the Thunder took a late penalty meaning the Inferno started the third period on the powerplay.
That powerplay wasn’t as successful as the others and they weren’t able to get some quality scoring chances on Knox, so this one went scoreless. Less than five minutes into the period, the Inferno went on the penalty kill and, again, it wasn’t successful for the Thunder so this one went scoreless.
Moments later, the Thunder had a few great shots on Rigsby, but she was able to stop them all. The Inferno then took another penalty so they’d have to try and kill it off again. On this PK, Jenner went on a shorthanded breakaway, but she was taken down so she got a penalty shot. She was incredibly close but the puck was stopped by Knox.
The Inferno killed off the rest of the penalty and seconds after it ended, Rigsby came up big yet again with a big save. A few minutes later, Laura Fortino cut the Inferno’s lead to two goals, but there were only about two minutes remaining in the game, so the Inferno won this one 5-3.
They outshot the Thunder 41-30 and seemed overall much more confident than they did on Saturday night. Three out of four points isn’t a bad weekend and they improved to 10-1-0-1. While their win streak came to an end, they’re still on an 11-game point streak which is quite impressive.
The CWHL released the first 11 players named to the All-Star Game with three Inferno players making that initial cut: F Rebecca Johnston, F Blayre Turnbull, and G Alex Rigsby. The league has partnered with the Toronto Maple Leafs to introduce the ASG and the Clarkson Cup. The ASG will be held at Scotiabank Arena on Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019.
What’s coming up
The Inferno head to Markham next weekend to hopefully start another win streak. They’ll return back home after that to play the Toronto Furies in a weekend series for their final games of the year.