Calgary, Alta (Mar.14) – After a hard-fought regular season, which saw Calgary finish in third place with 38 points and a record of 17-7-1-3, the Inferno now turn their attention to the Clarkson Cup Playoffs. Calgary is looking to make a trip to the Clarkson Cup final for the third time in as many years.
First, they have to contend with the Kunlun Red Star in a three-game first round series. Calgary will be in tough against Kunlun, but they have a positive record against the Red Star. The two teams met four times during the season, and the Inferno came out on top, with a record of 3-0-1-0. Their only loss came in the first game of the season on a last-second overtime goal from Annina Rajahunta. Calgary collected seven of a possible eight points against Kunlun and is the only team to post a winning record against Red Star this season.
“This is the most exciting time of the year,” exclaimed Inferno head coach, Tomas Pacina. “This is what we prepared and worked hard for all season long. We like our team and our chances.”
Kunlun will be the home team for the series, but the two teams will play at the Angus Glen Community Centre in Markham, ON rather than travelling to China. The best of three series is played on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday if necessary. The game on Saturday, and the possible game on Sunday will be broadcast on CWHL Live.
On Calgary’s offensive line, Brittany Esposito leads the Inferno in scoring with 25 points. She also leads the team in goals with 16, while Iya Gavrilova leads the team in assists with 18. Esposito’s 25 points put her in 11th place in league scoring, and her 16 goals are good for sixth in the league. Rookie netminder, Lindsey Post has a strong first season with Calgary, posting a 0.913 save percentage, and 2.21 goals against. She and Toni Ross led the goaltending for the first half of the season for Delayne Brian, who missed much of the season to injury. Brian will likely get the playoff start. On March 2nd Calgary also welcomed back their silver-medal Olympians, Blayre Turnbull and Brianne Jenner, who got their first points back with the team this past weekend against Montreal.
The last few weeks of regular season play saw a tight battle for playoff positioning and Calgary will keep that mentality going into the playoffs.
“Our preparation hasn’t changed. We’ve been dialed into playoff mode for a few weekends now,” commented the team’s assistant captain Jacquie Pierri who echoed Pacina’s thoughts. “There are some details that we are working on cleaning up, but we feel prepared and eager to get to work.”
In their inaugural season, the Red Star proved to be a formidable opponent against CWHL veteran teams. They finished second in the league, with 43 points and a 21-6-0-0-1 record on the season.
They boast the second-best offence in the league. Kelli Stack leads her team and the league with 49 points, and 26 goals, while fellow forward Zoe Hickel earned top spot for assists with 26. Between the pipes, Noora Raty led the league in save percentage (0.944), goals against average (1.60), and was second only to Montreal’s Emerance Maschmeyer in wins.
Game 1: Friday, March 16 – 7:30 PM EST
Game 2: Saturday, March 17 – 4:30 PM EST
Game 3 (if necessary): Sunday, March 18 – 5:30 PM EST