After already clinching a spot in the Clarkson Cup Playoffs, the Calgary Inferno headed into a big series against their rival Les Canadiennes de Montreal last weekend. Having sat one-and-two in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League standings for most of the year, a potential Clarkson Cup Finals rematch between the two teams seemingly beckons on the horizon as the regular season winds down. It was a battle for first place in La Belle Province, so let’s take a look back at the action!
GAME 1: CGY 5, MTL 4
The Saturday game from Montreal turned into a wild affair, with the home side jumping out to a lead right away. A Hilary Knight powerplay goal at 11:09 got Les Canadiennes going, and their top line of Saulnier-Poulin-Bettez would add to that opening goal less than two minutes later. Poulin and Bettez have sat first-and-second in the CWHL points race for most of the season, and this weekend would turn into a showcase of exactly why that is. Calgary stormed back with a powerplay marker of their own from Rebecca Leslie at 14:20, which was followed by more special teams magic with a shorthanded goal from Brianna Decker less than three minutes later! Halli Krzyzaniak would add another goal for the Calgary squad with just 37 seconds left in the first period to make it 3-2 Inferno at the first intermission. The Inferno would then make it 4 straight unanswered goals as we entered the second stanza:
Decker and Johnston's connection is unreal! @RJohnst6 gives the @InfernoCWHL the 4-2 lead in this big game #CWHL pic.twitter.com/cfPFAOEYKQ— Women's Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) February 2, 2019
But less than a minute later, Montreal’s top trio would combine again as Marie-Philip Poulin would cut into the lead with assists to Saulnier and Bettez. That meant the Inferno would open the 3rd period clinging to a 1-goal lead, but luckily a wicked one-timer feed from Kaitlyn Willoughby to Blayre Turnbull would provide the necessary insurance!
.@katbt617 with the one-timer gives @InfernoCWHL the 5-3 lead over Les Canadiennes #CWHL pic.twitter.com/kPn8wuu7nk— Women's Sports Highlights (@WSportHilites) February 3, 2019
With just three minutes remaining, Poulin (surprise) would get one back for Les Canadiennes assisted by Bettez (surprise), and although they’d pull netminder Genevieve Lacasse to try and find the equalizer, Calgary would hold on for the win!
Top team in @TheCWHL, getting it done https://t.co/P4a9FPHOO8— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) February 3, 2019
GAME 2: MTL 3, CGY 0
Sunday’s rematch lacked the high-scoring drama of the first outing, as Montreal came out with a vengeance. Les Canadiennes were dominant through the game and controlled much of the play and tempo, outshooting the visiting side 29-17 through the first 40 minutes. Along the way to victory, Montreal notched a goal in each of the three periods of play (markers from Jill Saulnier in the first and a pair from Marie-Philip Poulin in the 2nd and 3rd) while Emerance Maschmeyer slammed the door on the defensive end. Behind Maschmeyer’s 24 save shutout performance that also earned her First Star of the Game, the Saulnier-Bettez-Poulin line combined for a whopping seven points in the matchup. Poulin’s final tally at 18:11 of the third frame went into the empty net as the Inferno pulled Alex Rigsby in the hopes of starting a comeback, but the effort was unfortunately snuffed out.
With the split in the battle for first place, Calgary locked down home ice advantage for the Clarkson Cup Playoffs, and remains in first place with five regular season games left on their schedule before playoff time!
After spending seven straight weeks in third place, chasing down Ann-Sophie Bettez, Inferno Captain and leading point getter Rebecca Johnston is back in that familiar spot after spending only one week ahead of Bettez at 2nd place. The big weekend from Montreal’s top line made sure Johnston’s second-place success was short lived, and Les Canadiennes are now dominating the Top 10 in CWHL scoring. Brianne Jenner is the only other Inferno player to sit in the Top 10, as she leads the team in goals by one over her Captain at 14-13.
News & Notes:
-The Inferno set a new franchise record for consecutive wins with their Saturday victory, and although the loss on Sunday meant they’d miss out on the CWHL record, it’s still quite a testament to how well the season has gone.
Tonights Win by @InfernoCWHL is their 10th Win in a Row on the Road, a new Franchise Record. With a Win tomorrow, they can tie @TheCWHL Record of 11 Road Wins in a Row, held by @LesCanadiennes & @ThunderCWHL #CWHL— Trevor Down (@TrevorDown6) February 3, 2019
The Inferno will be back in Calgary this weekend, hosting on Saturday and Sunday as the league-worst Worcester Blades come to town. The Blades are winless on the year and are the sole posessors of a -108 goal differential. Sunday is also the annual You Can Play game, which will feature special rainbow sweaters and an online equipment auction. Calgary will then spend the rest of the regular season on the road, making the annual trek to China to face the league’s only non-North America based team, the Shenzen KRS Vanke Rays. That three game series runs February 20th, 22nd, and 23rd and will be a good bonding exercise before our Ladies In Red head home to host Clarkson Cup Playoffs games! Keep it locked to Matchsticks & Gasoline as the 2018-19 CWHL season winds down!