Monday, 20 January 2014

Calgary Inferno on fire with weekend sweep of Brampton elevating them to third place

As the Calgary Inferno continue to push towards qualifying for their first-ever Clarkson Cup, a key component is succeeding on the road. A weekend road swamp of the beleaguered Brampton Thunder is helping to make that postseason dream a reality.

Since the arrival of 2013 first-overall pick Jessica Wong last weekend, an air of confidence has surrounded the squad. Fittingly, Wong would get things started in the January 18 contest at Brampton’s Cassie Campbell Centre. At the 7:09 mark, she would put the biscuit in the basket against workhorse backstop Sonja van der Biek for the 1-0 advantage.

Rookie sensation Julie Paetsch would assist on Jenna Cunningham’s power play marker at the 12:43 mark to extend their lead over the home team. Special teams played a huge part in the successful first frame for Calgary. Cunningham’s goal was scored on the only power play opportunity for Calgary in the period. Despite Brampton enjoying three power play opportunities, DeLayne Brian nullified them all.

A scoreless second period resulted in penalty problems for both sides as six penalties were called. Sixty seconds into the period, Brampton captain Tara Gray was called for head contact and a game misconduct. It would set the tone for a physical period of play as neither club was able to score.

With the first half of the third period also scoreless, Brampton would eventually solve Brian and get on the scoreboard. Brampton rookie Danielle Skirrow scored at the 11:29 mark with the assist going to fellow rookie Jess Jones. Less than two minutes later, Calgary’s Jacqui Pierri was sent to the penalty box for holding, providing Brampton with a power play.

CWHL veteran Lindsay Vine would score as the assists were credited to newly acquired Sasha Nanji (who began the season with Toronto) and Mallory Johnston. As a side note, Brian and Johnston were teammates at the 2013 World Ball Hockey Championships for Canada.

Despite outshooting Calgary by a 12-5 mark in the third period (31-20 overall in regulation play), Brampton was unable to break the 2-2 deadlock. A costly interference penalty with 40 seconds left would haunt Brampton. Heading into overtime, it was Calgary that would take the reins as Danielle Stone would set up Tegan Schroeder for the game winning tally on the power play. Of note, seven different Inferno players would register points in the 3-2 overtime triumph.

Century Gardens would serve as the backdrop for the January 19 contest. In the first two goals that Calgary would score in the opening frame, five different Inferno players would earn points, displaying the type of versatility that is defining the team’s improving offensive attack.

Erin Duggan would open the scoring at the three minute mark with assists credited to Karolina Urban and Laura Dostaler. Three minutes and one second later, Julie Paetsch found the back of the net for the 2-0 advantage. Danielle Stone and Duggan earned the assists as Calgary outshot Brampton 11-8 in the first period.

Unlike the previous campaign, Brampton would not tie the game in the second period. Instead, Calgary added to its two goal advantage as Danielle Stone scored on Brampton goalie Jamie Miller at the 8:08 mark. Jessica Wong would earn an assist, giving her points in the first three games of her CWHL career. Cunningham was credited with the other helper. During the second period, DeLayne Brian would be solid between the pipes, as she nullified three Brampton power play opportunites.

Although Calgary would be sent to the penalty box twice in the third period, Brampton would be unable to mount a comeback due to four costly penalties. Brampton’s Danielle Boudreau would be called for a penalty just 62 seconds into the period, setting the tone for the black and red.

While Miller played valiantly to prevent Calgary from scoring on the power play, she could not prevent Paetsch from scoring on her at the 6:14 mark. Cunningham and teen phenom Madison Haller earned the assists as Brampton faced a four-goal deficit.

Opportunity seemed possible for Brampton when Danielle Stone was called for interference just six seconds after the Calgary goal. Despite their best efforts, Brampton was simply unable to mount a sutiable offensive attack to capitalize on the power play. With only two seconds remaining on the power play, Brampton’s Dania Simmonds would be called for a body checking penalty.

Any chance at a comeback for Brampton was all but finished at the 15:55 mark of the third. Laura MacIntosh, one of the squad’s most talented players on offense, was called for head contact. This was followed by a misconduct call, ejecting her from the game. Boudreau was called for unsportsmanlike call, sending her to the showers as well.

After the calls, it would take Calgary only one second to take advantage. Emily Berzins would score on the power play for the 5-0 lead. Assisted by Duggan, it was her third point of the game. While Lindsey Vine would score for Brampton before the game expired, the 5-1 loss proved to be costly for Brampton. Five points out of the final playoff spot, the squad has eight games left in the season.

With the weekend sweep, Calgary has leaped over the defending Clarkson Cup champion Boston Blades into third place in the standings. This accomplishment is a first in franchise history, testament to the coaching of Tim Bothwell, who is making a strong case for CWHL Coach of the Year. As their final three games this season involve Brampton, the three-game set shall likely decide which one qualifies for the postseason.

Photo credits: Jess Bazal

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