With three weekends left in the CWHL regular season, the Inferno are still in first place... for now.
But with two teams -- the Boston Blades and now the Montreal Stars -- hot on their heels, every game matters, even if they already have a Clarkson Cup playoff berth in hand.
While the Stars have perhaps the hottest hand in the league thus far, taking two of three from Calgary and sweeping Brampton to leapfrog the Blades in the standings, third-place Boston is still a powerhouse of a team with some of the biggest names in international hockey sitting on their roster. They're closing out their series against the Inferno after meeting with them in December on their home ice. Here's what you need to know about the upcoming series at Winsport.
- This will be the home closer for the Inferno, and they're holding fundraising events Friday to support the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta and Saturday to support the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and youth mental health.
- Friday's game will be streamed! Check out cwhl.ca for more info on purchasing a streaming package to watch your Inferno play. Also, take advantage of the free audio stream for home games via Calgary's website.
- The Blades have a 2-1 edge in the series so far against Calgary. After getting blown out 8-3 in the opening game Dec. 5 in Everett, they took games 2 and 3 at UMASS Boston, winning 4-2 and 3-2. The final game on Dec. 7 took overtime to complete, as Haley Irwin scored her second goal of the match to tie the game late in the third period. Hilary Knight got the game-winner in the extra session.
- The Blades dropped a pair of games in their following weekend of play against Toronto, but have gone on a five-game winning streak since then, outscoring opponents 34-5 in that span. Much of that can be credited to their incredible speed and aggressive defense. In Knight's absence (injury) during the Blades' last weekend of play Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, Brianna Decker went on a scoring tear, potting four goals in Boston's 7-0 rout of the Furies during the first game and five points on the weekend. Blake Bolden also tallied four assists over the weekend as a depleted Boston team (just 13 skaters) swept Toronto.
- Special teams were the name of the game last time these two teams played each other, particularly for Calgary. Five of the Inferno's 13 goals over that weekend were on the power play, and one (by Jessica Campbell) came short-handed. Bolden and Kelli Stack each scored on the man-advantage in separate games that weekend, but overall, the Inferno's penalty kill did a very good job (80 percent). Since then, they've averaged around 76 percent on the PK.
- Decker is going to be one the Inferno will have to watch (provided Knight is still not in the lineup this weekend). She's the Blades' top goal scorer (10 goals) and is fast, strong on the puck, and very creative both at even strength and on the power play. Bolden and Tara Watchorn are also very good puck-moving D, while Rachel Llanes is great at making goalies' lives miserable in front of the net.
- The Blades have two of the league's top three goaltenders in Genevieve Lacasse and Brittany Ott, and they seem to have split time pretty evenly this season. Either of them could face the Inferno this weekend (and both probably will, since it's a three-game stretch). If Boston's defense is as good as it was against Toronto, it could be a long weekend for the Inferno's offense, which seemed to get some jump back in its last game but has to find the back of the net early.