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A clash of the elements: Thunder meet Inferno in No. 2-No. 1 matchup

Hayley Wickenheiser and the Inferno are back at it Saturday and Sunday against the team nipping their heels for first place, the Brampton Thunder.
Hayley Wickenheiser and the Inferno are back at it Saturday and Sunday against the team nipping their heels for first place, the Brampton Thunder.
Ari Yanover

We all know what happens when fire meets water.

What happens when it meets thunder?

We'll find that out this weekend when Brampton goes cross-country to meet the Calgary Inferno for the first time this season, in what's become an interesting season for each team. While the Inferno are enjoying their best start ever (7-1-0, 14 points), Brampton is a different team from last season, enjoying some early success against the rest of the league.

After a 2014-15 campaign where they finished dead last, the Thunder have rebounded admirably. They dropped their first weekend of games, losing 4-0 and 5-2 to a high-powered Montreal team, but since then they've gone on a tear, picking apart both Toronto and Boston before heading into another tough matchup against currently the best team in the CWHL. They currently stand in second (behind Calgary), with a 6-1-1 record and 12 points.

Much like the Inferno, the Thunder have multiple offensive scoring threats. Team points leader Jamie Lee Rattray has only gone two games without a point this season so far (the opener against Les Canadiennes Oct. 17 and the latest win vs Boston on Nov. 22), and she is producing at over a point-per-game pace, with 11 in eight games played. Jess Jones is right behind Rattray with ten points (seven goals, three assists), and tied with her is Candice Styles (three goals, seven assists).

There's also offensive D Laura Fortino with seven points, Rebecca Vint with six, and Jenna McParland with five. Overall, it's a far cry from the offensively-lacking Brampton squad of last year.

In net, Erica Howe and Liz Knox have split time in net and each is doing admirably, Knox with a .944 save percentage and Howe with a .920. Knox earned a shutout against Boston.

One thing the Thunder have to be mindful of is their time shorthanded. Though their penalty kill, at 90.24 percent, is solid, they're tied with Toronto for the most times shorthanded (41 in eight games, an average of about five penalties per game). Then again, against a surprisingly anemic power play in Calgary's -- just three PPG forced in 37 attempts -- perhaps they'll be okay. In comparison, Brampton's power play is second-best in the league, with five goals in 35 attempts (about 14 percent success).

Although some comment has been made about parity becoming less of a thing in the CWHL, I think the tables have just been turned somewhat with the flipflop between Boston and Brampton. The Blades are now undergoing what the Thunder dealt with last year: a rebuild. Meanwhile, the Thunder are finding ways to click and have been able to exploit weaker teams. Now comes a good test against a team similar to them in a few ways.

Puck drop is at 5:30 p.m. MST (7:30 EST) Saturday and 10:30 a.m. (12:30 p.m.) Sunday. Both games will be held in Winsport's A rink. Streaming will be available via CWHL Live for Sunday's game ($19.95 CAD/around $15-16 USD).