It's safe to say someone owes Genevieve Lacasse a steak dinner and an ice bath after this weekend.
Calgary peppered the Boston Blades goaltender with 110 shots over the course of two games. Despite her tremendous effort (along with that of the Blades defense, particularly in the second game), the Inferno were able to come away with two more wins, 7-0 Saturday and 4-2 Sunday.
Saturday's game was all Inferno, as Calgary dominated despite a shortened bench. Rookie Elana Lovell was the star of the show, scoring a goal and three assists as part of the top line with Brianne Jenner and Brittany Esposito. Hayley Wickenheiser also scored her first in the CWHL, Jenna Cunningham had a goal and an assist and Esposito tallied two helpers as Boston suffered an second-period onslaught by the Inferno's offense. The third period saw no scoring, but the damage had been done.
The Blades came out tighter on Sunday, still allowing 20 shots to reach Lacasse in each of the first two periods, but limiting their chances both 5-on-5 and on the power play and diminishing chances for odd-man rushes (which there were plenty of on Saturday). Still, there were gaps in the defense during the first period that would come back to haunt them in the second.
The Inferno struck at 3:53 of the middle frame, as Wickenheiser capitalized on a screen by Jennifer Moe in front. The resulting shot crept through Lacasse's pads to make it 1-0. Boston took four of the next five shots after that, but a bad turnover on a clearing attempt led to Brianne Jenner lifting a pass to Brittany Esposito, who gave a nice head fake and backhanded it past Lacasse. Then, Wickenheiser found Jenner for a one-timer.
Boston did break through before the period ended, as Megan Shea threw the puck toward the net on a bad angle and it found its way past Desjardins for a 3-1 score. But less than a minute later, Lovell (who entered the game mid-way through the first period after being announced as a scratch) found herself all alone in front of the net as Esposito went east to west across the ice, backhanding it to her linemate for a quick goal.
A completely different team took the ice for Boston in the final period. Just 25 seconds in, some good work by Erin Kickham and Megan Myers in the corner led to a centering pass for Kristina Brown, who went five-hole on Kathy Desjardins to cut the lead in half. Brown and company would then limit the Inferno to nine shots over the course of the last 20 minutes, clogging up lanes and holding Calgary to the outside even better than they had earlier in the game. However, with time winding down, the Inferno were able to take control of the puck once more, cycling and keeping the Blades from breaking out of their zone to attempt to tie it up.
Lacasse finished with 53 saves Saturday night and 46 on Sunday morning. By comparison Delayne Brian, who split time with Desjardins this weekend, had 18, and Desjardins had 15. Overall, it's been a lot more of the same from the Inferno, while Boston is showing glimmers of progress but not enough offensive firepower to achieve their first win on the season.
The one thing Calgary should work on during the break is their play on the skater-advantage. Power play opportunities weren't flush or scarce, but for a team that has so much power on its offense, the results have not been encouraging. As it stands statistically, right now the Inferno have the weakest PP unit at 7.14 percent through four games.
Part of the problem lies in the desire to get too cutesy with the puck -- opting to pass and cycle when a shot is necessary, etc. -- thus shooting yourself in the foot, and that was obvious especially in the first period Sunday against the top penalty kill in the league. Making the play simpler and trying to get more looks inside would certainly benefit everyone on the Inferno. We all know this team has the best offense in the league; now show it off more often!
The CWHL takes a week off for the 4 Nations Cup but is back in action on Saturday, Nov. 14, as Calgary comes back home to face another currently-undefeated team in Montreal. Les Canadiennes (newly branded this season) have been tough to beat, with Kim Deschenes, Leslie Oles and Caroline Ouellette among its top producing forwards at the moment. However, it's another world-class goaltender in Charline Labonte, who played her heart out during the Clarkson Cup Final last season just to lose in overtime. Still, she should certainly be a good match for the offense on Calgary's roster.
Puck drop is set for 6:15 p.m. Mountain (8:15 Eastern) Nov. 14 and 11:15 a.m. (1:15 p.m.) Nov. 15 at Joan Snyder Rink in Winsport Arena. Tickets are available here, and you can watch Nov. 14's game via CWHL Live here (season package is $19.95 CAD/$15.86 USD). Also listen for free via CWHL Live.