The first matchup between the only two undefeated CWHL teams was bound to be good.
Both the Calgary Inferno and Les Canadiennes de Montreal delivered on both scoring and entertainment value, as the host Calgary defeated Montreal at Joan Snyder Rink in Winsport to move up to 5-0-0 on the season.
The Inferno shook off a shaky first period to have a monster second, scoring the bulk of their goals during the middle frame. Jessica Campbell led the offense with another multi-point game (two goals, one assist) and Delayne Brian made 35 saves, earning the first star of the night.
Calgary had to withstand an onslaught of shots early by the Canadiennes offense, being outshot 13-1 in that time. But that one shot was all they needed, as Sarah Davis completed a net-crashing play by her line to put the Inferno up 1-0. Karell Emard evened the score with a nice shot over Brian's glove at 16:31 to get Montreal's offense going.
Just 57 seconds into a topsy-turvy second period, Caroline Ouellette redirected a shot by Ann-Sophie Bettez to make it 2-1. The Inferno then went on to score four goals over the next 19 minutes. Japanese defender Kanae Aoki tallied the first of her career on a fluttering shot toward Labonte, and then Jillian Saulnier received a perfect centering pass from Brianne Jenner in the dying seconds of a penalty to Montreal's Cathy Chartrand to put the Inferno up 3-2. Ouellette's second of the night was sandwiched between each of Campbell's goals.
The third period was relatively calm in terms of scoring until the final minutes. Marie-Philip Poulin received a penalty shot after Aina Takeuchi was caught covering the puck in the crease, and she didn't miss with her shot. With the score at 5-4, the Inferno held firm, withstanding an urgent forecheck from the Canadiennes to preserve the win.
Head coach Scott Reid shied away from calling it an "excuse" to bring up the break in play and the fact that some of the Inferno's players were away from team practices due to the 4 Nations Cup, but did mention lack of practice time as a group as a potential impact to the lineup, saying, "It's been a lot of off-ice, talking, teaching and training that way."
Brian was the steadiest factor in the Inferno's game, withstanding a lot of offense from Montreal and doing her best to keep her team in it particularly during the opening period. She saw and tracked well most of the shots she faced, at times making point-blank saves off the rush, and during the Canadiennes' late push she did everything she could to keep the puck out, even stacking the pads on one shot. It was a solid game from her, and she'll get the start again tomorrow, according to Reid.
It's another quick turnaround for the Inferno against Montreal, which could prove tough if they want to improve their start to 6-0, but it should be another interesting tilt. Montreal's defensive breakdowns cost them tonight's game, but they'll likely be looking to fix those and mark the players with the biggest impact -- Campbell, Saulnier, etc. -- Sunday morning. As for goaltending, Charline Labonte allowed at least one goal she'd like back, but had a good night regardless and will probably be the go-to in net again tomorrow.
Game time is at 11:15 a.m. Mountain (1:15 p.m. Eastern) Sunday at Joan Snyder Rink in Winsport Arena. Fans can listen at home via free audio streaming, courtesy of CWHL Live.