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Inferno vs Red Star: Playoffs Preview

How Do The Squads Match Up In The Best Of Three Series?

The first round of the Clarkson Cup Playoffs kicks off tonight at 5:30MDT in Markham, Ontario!

Let’s take look at Calgary’s first round matchup, and how this best of three series against the Kunlun Red Star will stack up.

Regular Season:

  • Sat, Oct 28 KUNLUN 4 CALGARY 3 (OverTime)
  • Sun, Oct 29 KUNLUN 1 CALGARY 4
  • Wed, Feb 7 CALGARY 3 KUNLUN 2 (ShootOut)
  • Fri, Feb 9 CALGARY 3 KUNLUN 2

Outside of the overtime loss with ONE SECOND REMAINING IN OVERTIME, the Inferno seem to have Kunlun’s number. In fact, they were the only team in the CWHL to post a winning record against the Red Star. However, it wasn’t easy, as three of the four contests were decided by one goal, including requiring a shootout once.

Goalies & Defense:

KUNLUN: The Red Star features one of the league’s preeminent goaltenders, in Noora Raty. Raty finished first in the CWHL in GAA (1.60) and SV% (.944), and tied for the league lead in SO (6). She boasts a 16-3 record on the year, but is 1-1 against the Inferno. Red Star backup netminder Yuqing Wang took the other two losses against CGY.

Defenseman Jessica Wong led the way on the blue line for KRS, notching 10G and 14A for 24P and a +24 on the season. She finished 13th overall in CWHL point scoring and 1st in defenseman goals, and was only one point back of 1st place overall for blue line points.

CALGARY: With starting goalie and former Clarkson Cup MVP Delayne Brian out on injury for most of the year, rookie goaltenders Toni Ross and Lindsey Post split the workload until Brian made her return. Brian closed out the regular season with three straight starts, but 3 losses, and while she likely sees a game one start, Post had a great rookie year in relief. It’s probable we see some degree of split from Coach Pacina if the series goes three games. Brian stopped 43 of 46 in her two wins against Kunlun, while Post held off 57 of 63 in a win and a shootout loss.

Defenseman Katelyn Gosling has been a stalwart for the Inferno, and is a nominee for the CWHL Defenseman of the Year Award. She finished the regular season 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points, and her GWG with 45 seconds left in regulation against Boston in Week 12 was one of the highlights of Calgary’s season.

FORWARDS:

KUNLUN: The biggest threat for the Red Star is offensive powerhouse Kelli Stack, who finished 1st in league scoring (49 points in 28 games played, 1st in goals with 26, 1st in GWG with 5, 1.75 points per game average) and who has 2 goals and 4 assists in her four games against CGY this season. Her team mate Zoe Hickel led the league in assists with 26 on the campaign.

CALGARY: The biggest share of the scoring for the Inferno was split between their dynamic duo of forwards Brittany Esposito and Iva Gavrilova. CWHL Rookie Of The Year nominee Sophie Shirley wasn’t far behind them in the race for the team lead. Esposito also finished 2nd in the league for Powerplay Goals with 7.

HEADING IN:

KUNLUN: The Red Star have won 10 of their last 13 games played, shutting out the competition no less than five times along the way. Aside from a loss to their rival from Shenzen, the Vanke Rays, the only other team to beat them in the last thirteen games were the Inferno, and they did it twice, once in regulation and once in the shootout.

CALGARY: Closing out the regular season, the Inferno lost their final four games played and have skidded their way into playoffs having lost 7 of their last 12 games played. It was not the way anyone envisioned the final stretch going, as back in January they were directly in the hunt for 1st place overall in the CWHL. Add to that the return from injury of starting goalie Delayne Brian, and forwards Brianne Jenner and Blayre Turnbull returning from their Silver Medal Olympic stint, the forecast looked clear for Calgary to stay in the hunt. Instead they finished out to 3rd overall, and out of having home ice advantage in playoffs.

Final Thoughts:

While the season series tells a tale of Inferno dominance on paper, two of Calgary’s victories did come against Kunlun’s backup goalie, and three of the four games were decided by only a single goal. Both teams were tied for 2nd in CWHL goals scored with 96 each.

The Red Star are heading in white hot, while Calgary has limped their way through the final stretch. If former Clarkson Cup MVP Delayne Brian can return to playoff form and the Inferno offense can come back to life, it would be a huge boost for CGY. In addition to that, they’re tasked with cooling off Kelli Stack’s offensive production, and finding ways to beat Raty’s rock solid goaltending.

All things considered, we expect this one to require all three games to decide a winner between two of the CWHL’s elite teams. Best of luck to our Ladies In Red this weekend!