A slow start and penalty-filled game doomed the Brampton Thunder in a tough 4-2 loss to the Calgary Inferno in game one of the first round of the Clarkson Cup playoffs. Blayre Turnbull scored what would end up being the game-winner for Calgary in the second period while Delayne Brian held on for the victory in net. Erica Howe took the loss for Brampton, making 29 saves that just weren’t enough for the Thunder team.
Both teams faced off just a week earlier, to determine which group would have home ice advantage for the series, and Calgary’s victory in that contest meant the game would be held on the Olympic-sized rink, Winsport Arena. The extra room on the ice, coupled with the Inferno’s speed and a slow start for Brampton, who had a long trek out to Calgary for the series, spelled trouble for the Thunder.
The first frame was one of Brampton’s worst starts this season, with little sustained offensive pressure. The Thunder had just two shots on goal during the first period, despite two power plays early on. Meanwhile, Calgary poured it on, peppering Erica Howe with 17 shots in the first 20 minutes. The Inferno struck first with a goal by Hayley Wickenheiser, a wicked wrister that beat Howe on the power play at 14:51 in the first. Just over a minute later, Calgary struck again on the power play, this time with a goal by Jillian Saulnier.
After the Thunder came out slow to start the second period too, it looked like this might be an easy win for Calgary. But after a few minutes, Brampton started to look like the team that most fans have seen before — controlling the puck, connecting on passes, and getting some dangerous looks on Brian. Jenna McParland pulled the Thunder within a goal with five minutes left in the second, and despite a late push by the Inferno, managed to go into the third period only trailing by one.
In the third, both teams turned up the heat. Turnbull scored a goal halfway through the third period after both teams took penalties just six seconds apart. Five minutes later, with Brampton’s Kristen Richards in the box for interference, Rebecca Vint and Sarah Edney teamed up for a shorthanded goal that again cut Calgary’s lead to one.
Despite a few golden opportunities, including a wide-open net on a goalmouth scramble with less than a minute left in the game, Brampton couldn’t capitalize on a 6-0n-4 opportunity after pulling Brian, and Rebecca Johnston sealed the game for Calgary with the empty-netter for a 4-2 victory.
The expectation for the Thunder going into tomorrow’s game is that now that they’ve found their legs, they need to make it a much closer matchup throughout the entire game. Something else to consider is the ice size — the Calgary Inferno skate on Olympic-sized ice, whereas Brampton’s home rink is an NHL-size sheet of ice. The extra room on the ice gives Calgary, a fast-skating team that relies on speed to overpower their opponents, the edge over Brampton, who tends to rely a little more on winning battles in the corner and playing solid defense.
The Thunder will also need to beef up their special teams, which went a dismal 0-7 on the power play and allowed two goals on the extra-man advantage for Calgary, though they did score a shorthanded goal late.
Calgary has a chance to win the series tomorrow in Game 2, which will be broadcast on CWHLlive and starts at 6:15 MT.