Calgary, AB (March 27) – Calgary’s 18-year old forward Sophie Shirley took home the Rookie of Year Award on Friday night at the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) Awards. Head Coach Tomas Pacina was also recognized as the Coach of the Year.
Shirley finished top 20 in league scoring with 19 points (eight goals and 11 assists). Shirley showed remarkable puck-sense in her first season in the professional league.
“I am extremely honoured and grateful to win the rookie of the year award. The jump from minor hockey to the CWHL was big, but fortunately, through good coaching and the support of great teammates, I was able to grow as a player,” remarked award winner Sophie, a native of Saskatoon. “My plans in the fall of 2018 are to attend the University of Wisconsin and play for the Wisconsin badgers. I look forward for this opportunity and am excited for what’s to come!”
The Inferno are under the leadership of Tomas Pacina in his first season as Coach of the Inferno. The team set a 13-game record without a loss in regulation, finished the regular season in third place and almost advanced to the Clarkson Cup Final.
“Coach of the year truly is a team award,” commented Pacina. “It shows how incredible our coaching staff and management were throughout the year. It shows how dedicated and determined our captains were in leading the team through adversity. It shows how deeply each and every player has embraced and bought into our philosophy and system. That’s what this award is truly about.”
Calgary had a strong year led by Captain Erica Kromm. The team welcomed several rookies onboard after 14 players changed over, nine of those from the 2016-17 season were centralized for the Team Canada Olympic roster. Calgary’s veteran players stepped up to the plate. On the forward line, Brittany Esposito and Iya Gavrilova led the team in scoring with 25 and 24 points respectively. On the blue line, defenseman of the year nominee Katelyn Gosling and teammates Jacquie Pierri and Hayleigh Cudmore helped keep pucks out of the net. Calgary faced some goaltending hurdles early in the year when the starting goaltender Delayne Brian was out with an injury. Rookies Lindsey Post and Toni Ross stepped up to the plate to defend Calgary’s net and played an important role in the team’s success going forward in the season. Brian returned after the Christmas break and worked on alternating starting roles with Post to solidify the team’s playoff position.
A high point in Calgary’s season was a trip to China in early February to play the new teams in the league, the Kunlun Red Star and the Vanke Rays. Both were high in the standings early in the season and gave the established teams in the league a run for their money. Calgary walked away with seven out of eight possible points on the road trip and solidified their playoff spot.
In the playoffs, Calgary and the Chinese Kunlun Red Star battled for a spot in the Final. In the third and deciding game of the series, a goal from Kunlun ended the Inferno’s season in triple overtime.
The Clarkson Cup Final took place on Sunday, March 25 and saw the Markham Thunder as the new champions. Markham defeated the Kunlun Red Star 2-1 in both teams’ first appearance in the championship game.
As the teams start preparations for next season, there is a new excitement as the league builds with more competition and newly created rivalries.