Calgary Inferno host the Rays in the home opener

CALGARY, ALTA. – Oct. 19, 2018 – The Calgary Inferno are set to host the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays for a pair of games this weekend as professional women’s hockey returns to Calgary for the 2018-19 season.

The Inferno are coming off of a win and a loss against Les Canadiennes after opening their season in Montreal. Les Canadiennes took the first game 2-1, but the Inferno rebounded for Game 2, to notch their first win of the season with a 3-1 score.

The Vanke Rays opened their season in Toronto, winning their first two games over the Furies by scores of 5-1 and 3-0. The Vanke Rays will face the Furies once more Wednesday night before making their way out west to play the Inferno.

The 2017-18 season was the first in which Chinese-based teams joined the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL), with both the Kunlun Red Star and Vanke Rays suiting up against the five North American-based teams. Kunlun Red Star finished second in the CWHL standings with 43 points, while the Vanke Rays finished fifth place – just missing the playoffs – with 29.

The Inferno and Kunlun Red Star matched up against one another in the first round of the 2017-18 playoffs. The Inferno and Kunlun had a hard-fought three-game series, winning the first game; however, Kunlun took the second and third games– including a triple overtime finish – to win the right to play the Markham Thunder for the 2018 Clarkson Cup. Kunlun fell to Markham 2-1 in the championship game.

At the end of last season, the two Chinese teams combined into one to become the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays.

Though both squads look different this season – notably with Zoe Hickel, who played for the former Kunlun Red Star, having joined Calgary – the Inferno are looking to re-establish themselves against one of the hottest teams to start the 2018-19 CWHL season.

“They’ll bring a strong squad with talented goal scorers and a game changing goaltender,” remarked forward sharp shooter Zoe Hickel. “Our games in Montreal really set the tone for the season and we learned a lot, and quickly. We adapted so well after game one and it shows how coachable our team is and how in-tune our coaches are with the details and adjustments necessary to keep our minds clear and playing at our best.”

In addition to a +7 goal differential to the Inferno’s +1 after two games, the Vanke Rays are the only CWHL team to have scored on the powerplay so far this season, with a 37.5% success rate. They also have a perfect 100% penalty kill. The Inferno will want to stay out of the box, though through two games they have only collected eight penalty minutes to the Vanke Rays’ 14, so the special teams battle will be one the Inferno will be looking to capitalize on.

“I’m so blessed with all the amazing friendships I built over my time in China and it will be a blast to battle it out with them this weekend,” added Hickel.

Both games will be played in WinSport’s Arena A in Calgary. Saturday’s home opener will take place at 8 p.m. MST, while Sunday’s game will be played at 10:30 a.m. MST.