Calgary Inferno blank Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays in Home Opener

Calgary, Alta, Oct. 21 – After a weekend split against Les Canadiennes de Montreal last weekend to kickoff their 2018-2019 season, the Calgary Inferno returned home to deliver a shutout performance against the visiting Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays on Saturday night.

The first period was filled with speed and energy from both teams. However, neither squad was able to breakthrough in the scoring department as both goalies, Alex Rigsby (Inferno) and Noora Raty (Rays), were incredibly sharp. Midway through the opening frame, the Rays had a terrific opportunity to get on the board first as Inferno defender Halli Krzyzaniak took a hooking penalty, but the Inferno penalty-kill was equal to the task. The Inferno had a couple of decent looks late in the period with Eden Murray creating a mini-break and Tori Hickel finding herself all alone in front. However, All-World netminder Noora Raty denied both chances. The Rays had another opportunity on the powerplay with the Inferno’s Blayre Turnbull in the box for bodychecking. Though it was the Inferno’s Rebecca Johnston who disrupted the Rays’ powerplay by playing some keep-away with Tori Hickel in the offensive zone. Shots on goal after the first favoured the Rays 8-7.

The middle frame proved to be much more eventful. With the ice still wet, the Inferno’s Brianna Decker picked off a pass in the neutral zone and drilled a shot, narrowly missing the net from the high slot. Decker would get her revenge just three minutes later as her US Olympic teammate Kacey Bellamy hit her with a gorgeous two-line pass, springing Decker on a breakaway who then deked Raty and beat the Finnish netminder glove side. Zoe Hickel collected the other assist on Decker’s second goal of the season. Midway through, Brianne Jenner was hauled down on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. She tried a quick shot stick side on Raty but was denied by the end of Raty’s paddle, keeping the score at 1-0. With under two minutes remaining in the period, the teams saw some 4-on-4 action with Louise Warren serving an Inferno penalty for too many players, while the Ray’s Zhixin Liu was in the box for tripping Blayre Turnbull. The Inferno made good use of the open ice with their speed and executed ‘The Hickel Connection’ to extend their lead to 2-0. Zoe Hickel managed to draw a few defenders towards her on the left wing and found her wide-open sister, Tori, streaking right down the middle and the younger Hickel snapped one past Raty up high. Aina Mizukami picked up the second assist on the goal. The Inferno outshot the Rays 14-10 in that period.

Tori’s first ever goal in the CWHL proved to be extra special with her sister providing the beautiful pass. “She [Zoe] has a great knack for finding those seams and making those passes. I saw her jump – I knew we were 4-on-4 and saw the opportunity to step up. She knew where to find me,” exclaimed Hickel.

The third period saw a Rays team desperately trying to solve Rigsby. However, the Inferno defense tightened up, especially through the neutral zone and kept most of the Rays’ shots to the outside.

“My defense did a great job tonight. It’s easy when they pressure them to the outside and when they’re back-checking. It allowed me to focus on the shot and it put me in the best position to make the save,” explained First Star goaltender Alex Rigsby. “When you have the defensemen talking and doing their job so well, it makes my job easier. It’s being able to trust each other and making sure that people are covered. It felt great out there.”

A couple of Rays penalties down the stretch in the third practically sealed the victory for the Inferno, with Rigsby making 26 saves for the shutout.

Stars of the Game:

1st – Alex Rigsby (Calgary Inferno)
2nd – Tori Hickel (Calgary Inferno)
3rd – Noora Raty (Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays)

Both teams will do battle once more Sunday morning at Winsport with puck drop going at 10:30 am MST.