Calgary, Alta – Feb.19– After capturing four points against the Worcester Blades in a convincing 10-0 win at home, the Inferno have now made the long trek across the pond to China for three games against the Shenzhen KRS Vanke Rays to close out the regular season.
In previous matchups against the Rays this year, all in Calgary, the Inferno are a perfect 3-0.
The remaining three games between these two teams will be crucial for playoff seeding purposes. The Inferno currently sit atop the league standings with 20 wins (41 points) and coming home from this three-game stretch with six possible points would secure the top seed heading into playoffs. As for the Rays, they hold the fourth and final playoff spot (27 points), just one point back of the third-seeded Markham Thunder. So mustering up some points in the next few games for the Rays would help them secure a playoff birth and potentially a chance at sneaking into the third seed.
The high-powered Inferno offense will look to keep rolling in China as Rebecca Johnston, Brianne Jenner and rookie Rebecca Leslie all find themselves inside the top 10 in scoring. The always dangerous Brianna Decker is averaging 1.15 points per game this season and found the back of the net twice in her last game. Defensively, the Inferno rank second in goals allowed and have an 82% penalty kill rate on special teams.
Inferno forward Zoe Hickel, who played for KRS last season, will make her first trip back to China to face a few familiar faces but is thrilled to take in the experience with the visiting team. “I’m excited to see it in a new light with a new group of people, including my sister [Tori] and want to share with them some of the things I discovered last year,” expressed Hickel with a laugh. “We’ll be in a familiar area, which will be a lot of fun. There are some little places to eat that I am excited to share with the group.”
The Rays will lean on their workhorses Alex Carpenter and Hanna Bunton to ignite the offense, with Carpenter leading the way with a team-high 16 goals and 28 points. Between the pipes, the Rays will have All-World goaltender Noora Raty who has 8 wins and two shutouts on the year.
Cracking the code to the Finnish netminder early will be key for the Inferno. “We know typically she has been a pretty aggressive goalie. She’s a student of the game and she’s going to adjust to us too,” noted Hickel. “We have to keep moving the puck and keep moving our feet to make life difficult for her.”
Inferno Schedule in China:
Wednesday February 20 at 7:30 pm CST
Friday February 22 at 7:30 pm CST, streamed at: http://www.thecwhl.com/watch
Saturday February 23 at 2:30 pm CST
All games will take place at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Center.