There's one weekend left in the CWHL regular season, and the Inferno (13-6-3) are going to spend it trying to get back into the top two spots in the Clarkson Cup playoffs.
They close out their year Saturday and Sunday at Brampton, a team just recently eliminated from playoff contention after being swept against Boston. The Thunder have just six wins on the season, all of them close, but they lack consistent offense. Jess Jones and Laura Fortino, the top two scorers on the team, have just 11 goals combined (Jessica Campbell of the Inferno has that many just by herself). Much of this season has been dedicated to rebuilding after losing much of last year's roster, including now-Inferno Bailey Bram and Olympian Gillian Apps. Still, they're a tenacious squad with plenty of skill -- if they can stay out of the penalty box. (Granted, their 107 penalties have helped them get better at the PK, which is currently around 82 percent.) They also have two goalies who are better than their numbers suggest in Erica Howe and Liz Knox.
Calgary, meanwhile, has become a toss-up. They've won every game so far against Brampton, so the odds are good, but there are some things to consider.
While still having the best season of its four-year history, some things have been better than others. Obviously, offense still isn't much of an issue, with Jessica Campbell and Brittany Esposito producing well, Jessica Wong moving the puck from the blueline, and Rebecca Johnston being Rebecca Johnston. The Inferno also have enough talent up front to get goals from other sources (Bram, Jenna Cunningham, Rhianna Kurio, etc.), and Delayne Brian has had a better year statistically. But their penalties have been increasing, while their penalty kill has slipped to second-last in the league at 79 percent (just ahead of Toronto's 77 percent). Also, while the Inferno have a sparkling 9-2-1 record on their own ice, they're just barely at .500 on the road (4-4-2) and have won just two of their last five away games. That could definitely affect their offense, whose key scorers tend to score more at Winsport according to stats whiz Mike Burse.
Whether or not they win this weekend, the Inferno still have a playoff spot. It just remains to be seen who their opponents will be, and that depends more on what Boston and Montreal do in their weekend, unfortunately, seeing as both of them have points on Calgary.
Saturday's puck drop is set for 4:50 MST (6:50 EST). Sunday's will be at 12:05 p.m. (2:05 p.m.).
You can watch all four teams battle today and tomorrow via the CWHL Streaming Package, which is $10 Canadian (about $8 American). Boston and Montreal will be streamed Saturday at 4 p.m. MST (6 p.m. EST), while Sunday you can see your Inferno in Brampton.
Notes: The Inferno have been tweeting out player-related Clarkson Cup promos for the past couple of weeks, and most recently this one featured Haley Irwin. Irwin's been out since Jan. 17 with an injury, but will she be back soon? We'll find out.