Calgary, Alta – The top-seeded team in the CWHL and defending Clarkson Cup Champions, the Calgary Inferno, received a rude awakening in the first game of the 2017 playoffs. After producing 20 wins in the regular season, the Inferno dropped a 5-2 decision to the visiting Toronto Furies in the postseason opener at the Carstairs Memorial Arena.
The first period was full of energy as both teams played with a furious pace. The Inferno’s Brittney Esposito took a hooking penalty early in the first but the Furies were unable to capitalize. The best short-hand chance belonged to Rebecca Johnston as the Inferno forward raced in on a breakaway, only to be denied on the backhand by Furies netminder Christina Kessler. Calgary maintained pressure and scored the first goal midway through the opening period as Brianne Jenner found a streaking Iya Gavrilova down the right wing and the former Calgary Dino cut to the middle of the ice and slid the puck under the left pad of Kessler to break the ice. However, Calgary’s undisciplined play got them into trouble later in the first as Meaghan Mikkelson and Brigette Lacquette took turns serving minor penalties. The Furies finally capitalized on their third powerplay opportunity as Jenelle Kohanchuk redirected in a sneaky slap pass from the point courtesy of Erin Ambrose. The score remained tied 1-1 after the first, despite Calgary controlling most of the game and outshooting the Furies 14-9.
The second period belonged to the Toronto Furies as they continued to build on their lead. The Furies had the first prime scoring chance as Kelly Terry was sent in on a breakaway but Inferno goalie Emerance Maschmeyer shut the door on the 5-hole attempt from Terry. Toronto would capitalize midway through the second period as Erin Ambrose lit the lamp with assists going to Julie Allen and Jess Vella. Terry would eventually get her revenge on Maschmeyer as the speedy forward accepted a nifty pass from Natalie Spooner and found the back of the net in the late stages of the second. Although Toronto was the only team to show up on the stat sheet in the second and extend their lead to 3-1, Calgary continued to outshoot the Furies 30-19.
The Furies would pick up right where they left off to start the third as Kohanchuk ended up in great position for an easy tap-in powerplay goal for her second of the game with Spooner and Ambrose drawing the assists. With the Inferno in a three-goal deficit, Jessica Campbell answered back for Calgary late in the third as she put away a terrific pass from Sarah Davis. However, it would be Kohanchuk and the Furies who would have the last laugh as the forward finished off her playoff hat-trick in style as she found the empty net on a spin-o-rama from centre ice. The Furies were outshot 49-26 when the final buzzer sounded but they snuck out a 5-2 victory on the road to kickoff the 2017 Clarkson Cup playoffs.
Even thought the Inferno came up short in the playoff opener, they still played their game and continued to pepper Kessler with shots. “I thought we did a lot of really good things tonight. I think on some of the goals, there are some things we could look at on the drawing board but you don’t want to overanalyze a loss like that. We put 49 shots on net so kudos to Kessler. There are a lot of positives to draw from but it stings right now,” explained Inferno captain Brianne Jenner.
One area Calgary will look to improve on in Game 2 is creating more traffic in front of Christina Kessler. “We have to take away her eyes. I thought our defense was doing a fantastic job getting pucks through. We thought she didn’t see them but she didn’t give out a rebound either so she was pretty solid for them,” continued Jenner.
3 Stars of the game:
- Jenelle Kohanchuk – Toronto Furies
2. Iya Gavrilova – Calgary Inferno
3. Christina Kessler – Toronto Furies
Game 2 will take place Saturday February 25 back inside Winsport at the Joan Snyder Arena beginning at 3:30pm MST. If necessary, game 3 will go on Sunday February 26 back at the Carstairs Memorial Arena with action getting underway at 12:45pm MST.