Inferno to host China’s Vanke Rays and raise awareness for Youth Mental Health

Calgary, Alta (Jan.18, 2018) – The Inferno are back on the ice this weekend after a week off following a series against Les Canadiennes that saw Calgary drop both games to the visiting squad. The Inferno will look to get back on the winning side as they play host to the Vanke Rays for two games this weekend.

The Rays are the second of the two new Chinese teams added to the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) at the start of the season, and this is the only visit that Vanke will make to Calgary for the regular season. The two teams will face off again when Calgary heads to China in the first week of February.

Vanke and Calgary are currently tied in the standings with 23 points each, although Calgary has two games in hand. Montreal and Kunlun are three points ahead of both teams at the top of the standings with 26 points each.

On Saturday, the Inferno, in conjunction with the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre (SKCAC) will host the third annual ‘Start the Spark’ game to help bring awareness to youth mental health. The Inferno will wear limited edition purple jerseys at the game that will be auctioned off in support of the SKCAC, and special guest Sheldon Kennedy will perform the ceremonial puck drop. The opening ceremonies also feature a special recognition of the nine Inferno players heading to the Olympics next month.

“Start the Spark is so important because it brings mental health awareness to people of all ages. Jessica Campbell, the founder of Start the Spark, did an amazing job bringing this initiative to youth across Calgary. We’ve gone to different schools the past two years and have been able to show students that it is important to talk about their mental health. An event like this helps to lift the stigma associated with mental illness,” says Inferno forward Brittany Esposito, who is playing in her second ‘Start the Spark’ game. “It’s important that people know it’s okay not to be okay. We try to inspire conversation about mental health and help youth understand that they can discuss their mental health with others but also show they can be part of a support system for their friends who may have mental health issues.”

The Rays currently have four players in the top ten of league scoring. Forward Cayley Mercer leads the way with 30 points, followed by Ashleigh Brykaliuk with 23, Brooke Webster with 20, and Hanna Bunton with 19. All four players were drafted in the 2017 CWHL entry draft this past August, and are in their rookie season with the league. Vanke is backstopped by another rookie, netminder Elaine Chuli. Chuli has played all 16 games for the Rays and has a 0.938 save percentage, a 2.10 goals against average, and she has four shutouts on the season.

On the other side of the ice, the Inferno will look for an offensive spark from their own rookie, Sophie Shirley, who returns to CWHL action after playing on Team Canada’s National Development Team in Germany. Shirley is currently tied with Brittany Esposito for the team lead in points with 11. Esposito and Rhianna Kurio are tied for the team lead in goals with six apiece. Goaltender Delayne Brian has plans to be back in net for one game this weekend after suffering a lower body injury in the Fall.

Puck drop for Saturday’s ‘Start the Spark’ game goes at 6:30pm at WinSport Arena A, while Sunday’s game goes at 12:30pm over in WinSport B Joan Snyder.

Tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance or at the door.

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