Calgary Inferno secure three points in weekend series against Vanke Rays

Calgary, Alta (Feb.4) — The Calgary Inferno could not quite come away with two points in the second game versus the Vanke Rays, losing 3-2 on Sunday afternoon in China in an action-packed shootout. In Saturday’s game, the Inferno won 6-2. After this weekend of play Calgary remains third in the CWHL standings after gathering three out of a possible four points against the Vanke Rays.

The Inferno seemed well-adjusted to the time change as they came out flying in the opening period, enjoying the majority of puck possession in the Rays’ zone and controlling pace of play. Just six minutes into the game, the visitors got on the board early as Inferno forward Kelty Apperson blitzed through the neutral zone, snapped a shot from the high slot and deflected off Inferno captain Erica Kromm into the net. Defender Megan Grenon picked up the other assist as she initiated the breakout from her own zone. The Inferno had a great opportunity to add to the lead with the Rays’ leading scorer Cayley Mercer in the penalty box for cross-checking, but could not get one past Vanke goaltender Elaine Chuli. Calgary took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission and outshot the Rays 12-9.

The middle frame saw the Rays battle back as they applied pressure in the Inferno zone, forcing Kromm to take a hooking penalty three minutes in. During the Rays man advantage, Vanke defender Ashleigh Brykaliuk’s shot had eyes from the point as she flipped the puck through heavy traffic and it went past a screened Lindsey Post. Vanke forwards Hanna Bunton & Cayley Mercer recorded the assists on the powerplay marker, which tied the game. Both teams had their chances to break the 1-1 deadlock as minor penalties were handed out to Minghui Kong, Emily Janiga and Rose Alleva of the Rays, while Apperson, Kelly Murray and Sophie Shirley were called for separate infractions. Calgary even had a 5-on-3 advantage for a full minute but Chuli shut the door. The score remained tied after two periods of play with the Rays winning the shots on goal battle, 9-7.

Vanke had some powerplay time to work with early in the third but were unable to break through the Calgary defense. Kromm finally put the Inferno ahead five minutes later as she finished off a gorgeous spin-around and slid it past Chuli. Katelyn Gosling and Kayla Gardner picked up the helpers on the highlight-reel goal. Vanke was given an opportunity on the powerplay with seven minutes remaining as a miscue on an Inferno line change cost the team a bench minor. With Gardner serving the too many men penalty, Bunton capitalized on the man advantage, beating Post in-tight with a little help from Mercer and Brykaliuk. The score remained knotted at 2-2 heading to overtime.

In the extra frame, the Inferno’s Jacquie Pierri took at tough slashing call against her. Vanke was determined to end the game on the powerplay, including a barrage of shots from Mercer & Brykaliuk. However, Post had some other ideas as she made a flurry of brilliant saves to preserve the tie and force a shootout.

“Lindsey was phenomenal in net today. She was solid early on and a brick wall for us down the stretch,” expressed Inferno defenseman Kelly Murray, who played the majority of the Inferno penalty kill in overtime.

Mercer would eventually score the game-winning goal in the shootout, giving the Vanke the 3-2 victory, while outshooting the Inferno 35-27.

“As a team, our passing was crisper today and we stuck to our systems a bit better. The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but Patch [Tomas Pacina] mentioned how well we played,” stated Murray.

3 stars of the game:

  1. Rose Alleva – Vanke Rays
  2. Hanna Bunton – Vanke Rays
  3. Erica Kromm – Calgary Inferno

The Inferno will now have a couple days off to rest and tour the Shenzhen/Hong Kong area. Additionally, they will begin preparations for a pair of games against the second place Kunlun Red Star.

Vs. Kunlun Red Star
Wednesday February 7 at 7:30 pm CST
Friday February 9 at 7:30 pm CST

Saturday’s Game Review

The Inferno looked no worse for wear as their blueliners stole the show in the opening frame, scoring two goals to set the pace early. Off a broken play in the Rays’ zone just five minutes into the game, the Inferno’s Katelyn Gosling found herself alone in the slot and shocked the Rays’ goaltender Elaine Chuli with a wicked wrist shot to the top corner. Dakota Woodworth & Iya Gavrilova picked up the assists on the play. Just five minutes later, Jacquie Pierri created a nice rush into the Rays’ zone and beat Chuli glove-side as well. Gavrilova collected her second assist while Brittany Esposito was credited with the second helper. The Inferno had more opportunities to extend the lead in the first as they found themselves on a couple of powerplays but were unable to convert. Calgary took a 2-0 lead into the intermission and outshot Vanke 10-2.

In the second period, the Rays came out with more energy and the Inferno’s Delayne Brian had to make a critical save on a Vanke breakaway chance seven minutes in. The Inferno pushed their lead to 3-0 shortly after as Esposito made a beautiful hesitation move in the high slot and snapped one along the ice past Chuli, who had already committed on the initial pump-fake. The Rays were finally able to solve the Calgary netminder midway through the second as the Inferno were scrambled defensively in their own zone. Rays defender Qinan Zhao pumped one home past a screened Brian as the puck came out to her at the point, with Hanna Bunton getting the lone assist on the play. Vanke had a great chance to pull within one goal before the end of the second period as Calgary’s Kayla Gardner took a hooking penalty. However, it was the Inferno special teams who came up big on the penalty kill. Off some good work in the neutral zone, the Inferno’s Sophie Shirley found herself on a mini breakaway and nearly put one away on Chul. However, after the initial save Calgary’s Louise Warren was first on the scene to put away the loose puck sitting in the crease. Calgary led 4-1 after two periods and outshot the Rays 7-6 in the middle frame.

The third period saw the Rays fight back by lighting the lamp on the powerplay. Vanke forward Emma Woods put home a gorgeous no-look pass by Hanna Bunton with Warren serving a hooking minor penalty, making the score 4-2. Calgary maintained their composure and responded with two terrific goals. The fifth Inferno goal saw Esposito finishing off a nifty setup by Gavrilova. Inferno forward Kayla Gardner capped off the Calgary scoring with an easy tap-in goal off the brilliant feed by Erica Kromm. Final score of the game was 6-2 for the Inferno and easily outshooting the Rays 29-19.

“We played a lot better in the third. We still had those missed passes and that can add up, especially if they go the other way with it. It was a great team win. We could have made all the excuses in the world like the long flight, but we gutted it out,” stated Esposito, who finished with two goals and three points in the game.

3 stars of the game:

  1. Brittany Esposito – Calgary Inferno
  2. Taryn Baumgardt – Calgary Inferno
  3. Yue Hou – Vanke Rays