It's been a stop-and-go kind of season so far for the Calgary Inferno. They went on a two-week hiatus following Opening Weekend at home against Brampton, and after this weekend they'll be taking another week off for the 4 Nations Cup (which is a good thing, since half their team will be at the tournament representing Team Canada).
For now, it's another two games this weekend against the Boston Blades, who are winless to date and still in the midst of finding their offense. However, their goaltending doesn't seem to be an issue even in the wake of losing Genevieve Lacasse (she was traded to Calgary this offseason in a fulfillment of the Tara Watchorn trade back in 2014). Lauren Dahm has taken the title of "backbone of the team," withstanding tremendous offensive pressure to help keep the Blades afloat -- particularly last Saturday, when she faced 56 shots and only allowed two goals, getting her team one point in a 2-1 overtime loss to Toronto.
Still, while the Blades are looking more competitive overall, it's a slow start. They've only forced two goals in two games -- one by Erin Kickham, the other by Kate Leary -- and clearly their defense needs some time to come together. As with many rebuilding teams, goaltending is the foundation, so the Blades are doing well in that regard. But they struggled against a largely improved Toronto Furies squad. So what can we expect against the Inferno?
The Blades are a hardworking, promising young squad with a few names to watch out for. Aside from Dahm, an athletic type who can take on a large workload, Kayla Tutino (the Blades' #1 draft pick in this year's draft) has plenty of skill and versatility on the ice. Erin Kickham is a roleplayer who can pot an opportunistic goal or two; Kate Leary is a grinding forward who can perhaps get under your skin. On defense, Tara Watchorn has been the anchor the past two seasons and is one of the best in the game.
Still, this is a team with a lot of turnover that's still trying to jell. The Inferno have a few new names, but are by and large the same team from last year's Clarkson Cup-winning campaign. That could bode well or badly this early in the season -- last year they started out hot, but fizzled late to slip out of the No. 1 seed. Against Brampton during Opening Weekend, they showed tenacity in clawing out two one-goal wins, coming back in Saturday's game and then holding on for Sunday's result.
The Inferno also have it made in goal -- Lacasse will probably get one of the two starts, Emerance Maschmeyer the other, unless the team takes this chance to give Delayne Brian a nod against a currently winless team. They could well afford to -- the Blades have averaged about 15 shots on goal per game to start the season, making it a light workload for opposing netminders. Combine that with the depth and speed on offense, and Calgary could make this a weekend sweep.
Follow along with the games on thecwhl.com, where a live stat tracker will be available (unfortunately, this weekend's games are not available on CWHL Live). The games begin at 6:30 p.m. MT Saturday and 7:30 a.m. Sunday.