The Inferno got the start they wanted, but not the finish.
Four different Stars scored and Charline Labonte made 30 saves to beat Calgary, 4-1, in front of a packed house (including 800 schoolchildren) at Arena Etienne-Desmarteau.
After Bailey Bram got the scoring started on the power play just over halfway through the first, Cathy Chartrand capitalized on a 3-on-2 to pull her team even. Labonte then withstood a barrage of shots from the Inferno to keep it that way. The period ended with shots 13-5 in favor of Calgary, but Montreal had 37 seconds left of a power-play on a penalty to defenseman Jacquie Pierri.
Just 20 seconds into the second period, Ann-Sophie Bettez found the back of the net to make it 2-1. Montreal controlled the tempo in the middle frame, outshooting Calgary 10-6 as the Inferno atttempted to beat back the Stars with more physical play. The end result of that strategy was another Stars goal, this time by Noemie Marin, and penalties to Bram and Kelsey Webster.
Calgary did manage to regroup in the third, using their speed to get to the front of the net and even pulling goalie Delayne Brian on an extended 5-on-3 for an extra skater. But Labonte made 12 excellent saves in the final frame, including smothering a hard low shot by Jessica Wong with her pad and flashing the glove on Sarah Davis. Casandra Dupuis added an empty net goal to make the final score 4-1, and Bram, Labonte, and Marin (with an assist on top of her goal) earned third, second, and first stars, respectively. Brian made 17 saves on 20 shots faced.
Though the Inferno only managed to earn two of a potential six points, those two points are enough to keep them atop the league thanks to an overtime loss they suffered against the Blades; however, they are now tied with Boston in wins with 11. Frustration definitely got to the better of them today, as evidenced by their increasingly physical-turned-undisciplined play. This weekend marks the second time this season that Calgary has lost two games back-to-back; the other time was against the Blades Dec. 6-7, fittingly after routing them 8-3 in the opening game.
The Inferno will travel to Toronto next for a pair of games Saturday and Sunday. Stay tuned for a preview closer to the end of the week and some more analysis of what the Inferno need to get back on track.
(Special thanks to Valerie Chiasson @ValChiasson for some excellent updates and information on the games this weekend. Follow Val for Stars and general CWHL talk.)