The Inferno opened the season against Les Canadiennes on a Quebec road swing, but managed to take the last game of the series to earn a split and end a seven game regular season losing streak against Montreal. Our Ladies In Red looked to continue the momentum as they headed home to Calgary for their season opener against the Shenzen KRS Vanke Rays!
Game 1- CGY 2, KRS 0
Fresh off a tough goaltending matchup series against longtime rival Emerance Maschmeyer in QUE, the Inferno were tasked with another netminding rival in All-World goalie Noora Raty this weekend. Raty backstopped Kunlun to their now-infamous Triple OT victory over the Inferno in last season’s Clarkson Cup semi-finals game. Calgary knew they’d have to get as many pucks as possible at Raty in this one, and wound up putting no less than 36 SOG in the contest. In the process the Inferno managed to break through with a 14 shot 2nd period and get a pair of goals on Kunlun, and almost a third as Brianne Jenner was stopped on a penalty shot.
The netminding on the other end told it’s own story, as Calgary goalie Alex Rigsby turned aside a total of 26 shots to blank Kunlun for the shutout. Rigsby was a member of the gold-medal winning Team USA squad from the PyeongChang Olympics, and picked up first star honours for her performance in this one.
Game 2- CGY 6, KRS 1
Sunday saw a rematch in the creases, and it was Raty vs Rigsby Round Two! Carrying their momentum from game one, the Inferno were relentless on the offensive end. Outshooting the Vanke Rays 16-6 in the first and getting off to 1-0 lead, the pressure stayed on for the remainder of the game.
WE’RE ON THE BOARD! MIZUKAMI MAKES IT 1-0 9:55 INTO THE GAME!— Calgary Inferno (@InfernoCWHL) October 21, 2018
Peppering Noora Raty, the Inferno outshot the opposition 13-8 and 14-6 in the 2nd and 3rd periods, notching another 5 goals along the way. The Vanke Rays would mercifully pull Raty in the 3rd period, leaving Kimberley Newell to play out the remaining 7:17 of the game too little too late. Time ran down, and it was a home weekend sweep for the Inferno!
While CGY netminder Alex Rigsby’s shutout streak came to a close at a total of 145 minutes and 51 seconds allowing a goal in the second period of Sunday’s contest, she has absolutely cemented herself early as the team’s starter between the pipes. Annie Belanger was the Inferno’s first round pick from UConn at this year’s CWHL draft, but she has yet to see a start through four games this season. Calgary Head Coach Shannon Miller seems content to play the hot hand and stay with it, a stark contrast from Tomas Pacina’s platoon goalie system last season that alternated between three separate netminders.
Another takeaway this year is the emergence of a balanced scoring attack. With the offseason loss of some of team’s most notorious point-getters, replacing those points by committee has so far worked out well for Calgary.
American Olympic Gold Medalist Brianna Decker has led the charge in the goal scoring department so far, and added to the highlight reel:
This Brianna Decker girl is pretty good hey? pic.twitter.com/En2Jc2UDMT— Calgary Inferno (@InfernoCWHL) October 22, 2018
It’s back on the road for the Inferno, as they head out to face the former Boston Blades squad newly relocated to Worcester, Massachusetts. The weekend series goes October 27th and 28th, and is a big opportunity against the Blades as Worcester is the CWHL’s only winless team through this season’s four games. Check back with Matchsticks & Gasoline to see how our Ladies In Red fare on the east coast!