Calgary, Alta (Feb.7) — The Calgary Inferno had their best game of the China trip so far as they stunned the second ranked Kunlun Red Star 3-2 in a tense shootout victory.
Just 29 seconds into the opening period, the Red Star got on the board early with a quick strike from Zoe Hickel as she deflected a cross-crease pass from teammate Kelli Stack past Inferno goaltender Delayne Brian. Calgary would have a chance to tie up the game five minutes later with Stack serving a minor for bodychecking but Red Star goalie Yuqing Wang turned aside every attempt. Calgary would continue to pour on the pressure, including a brilliant solo rush along the right wing by Sophie Shirley, but she was rejected by the inside of the post. Despite outshooting the Red Star 7-3 in the first period, the Inferno trailed 1-0.
Calgary responded with an excellent middle frame. Brian seemed to give her team life as she came up with a pair of big stops with Jacquie Pierri in the penalty box for hooking. Five minutes later with the Red Star’s Jessica Wong, a former Inferno was in the box for hooking, the Inferno’s Brittany Esposito got Calgary on the board with a gorgeous tip from the high slot as it beat Wang top shelf. Iya Gavrilova would pick up the assist on the initial point shot, while Dakota Woodworth would register the second helper. Just two minutes later, Calgary would once again cash in on the powerplay as Esposito would tally her second consecutive tip-in marker. Gavrilova would grab her second assist of the game and Warren had the other. The Inferno had a couple more odd-man opportunities late in the second but were unable to convert. Calgary took a 2-1 lead into the second intermission.
The third period proved to be tense as the Red Star were desperately trying to even the score and the Inferno defence bottling up the shooting lanes. Halfway through the third, Gavrilova found a seam down the middle after receiving a nice pass from Woodworth but Wang flashed the leather for a highlight glove save. With four minutes left to go in the period, the Inferno’s Katelyn Gosling was penalized for a tripping infraction and the Red Star took advantage. Former Inferno Jessica Wong tapped home a nifty feed from Zoe Hickel on the powerplay, with Stack picking up the other assist. That marker tied the game 2-2 and forced overtime.
Overtime saw plenty of good chances including the Red Star’s Stephanie Anderson trying to end it four seconds in and the Inferno’s Kelly Murray getting a clear shot at the net after walking in from the point. However, both goalies made key saves and sent the game to a shootout. Stack would score for the Red Star in the shootout, while Esposito and Laura Dostaler (game winner) lit the lamp for the Inferno.
The two points picked up in the victory were crucial as the Inferno are jockeying for playoff positioning with Vanke and Kunlun. “I think we said it from the start – it’s playoff hockey right now. We had to stick to our systems, made sure every shift mattered and we had to stay together no matter if we were up or down,” stated Gavrilova, who picked up two assists in the win.
Despite their strong performance, Gavrilova and the Inferno know that they have to be ready for a Red Star team who will be undoubtedly hungrier for a victory. “I think we have to do a better job of capitalizing on our chances and getting more shots on their goalie. I feel like we didn’t test her as much as we could have this game,” added the second star of the game.
3 Stars of the Game:
- Kelly Murray – Calgary Inferno
- Iya Gavrilova – Calgary Inferno
- Taylor Marchin – Kunlun Red Star
The backend of this two-game series with the Kunlun Red Star and the final game of this China trip will go Friday February 9 at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre with a 7:30 pm CST puck drop.