City’s women’s hockey team defeats Montreal Stars in matinee matchup

While the Scotiabank Saddledome is usually reserved for the Calgary Flames and Hitmen, the city’s top-flight women’s hockey team graced the ice for a good cause.

On Oct. 26, the Calgary Inferno hosted the Montreal Stars at the Dome for Calgary’s breast cancer awareness game, which featured a pink playing surface. After a hard fought and exciting 60 minutes, the hometown Inferno were able to get past the Stars by a score of 3-2 in front of 300 fans.

The Inferno joined the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) in 2011 and their roster includes two-time Canadian Olympic gold medalists Rebecca Johnston and Haley Irwin, who showed off their chemistry late in the game’s second period.

With the score deadlocked at one, Johnston buried a perfect feed from Irwin past Montreal’s sprawling goaltender, Charline Labonté, who happened to be the Calgary duo’s teammate during the Vancouver and Sochi Winter Olympics.

“I’ve been teammates with her for awhile so I guess I should know her weaknesses,” Johnston joked after the game. “She’s a really good goalie so it’s always tough to get goals against her.”

Although the Inferno dictated most of the play, doubling the Stars shots by a total of 36 to 18, Labonté kept Montreal in the game making save after save on multiple odd-man rushes.

Montreal forward Noémie Marin seized the opportunity her goaltender was giving the team and tipped a power play goal past Calgary goalie Delayne Brian early in the third.Rebecca Johnston looks to tip a puck past Olympic teammate Charline Labonté. Johnston currently leads the CWHL in scoring with eight points in five games and recorded a goal on Sunday at the Saddledome.

Photo by Brendan Stasiewich

The goal seemed to light a fire within the Inferno players. From that point on, Calgary played with an increased intensity, bearing down and persistently trying to get back their lead. Rush after rush was sent into the attacking end, but Labonte was equal to the task, turning away each shot.

Eventually the seemingly impermeable wall was broken down as Calgary’s Sarah Davis played hero for the Inferno. Her goal with six minutes left in the third was all that was needed for her team to claim victory.

“We were playing well enough to win but the score didn’t dictate that,” said Davis. “You really have to pick your shots against her, [Labonté] can definitely cover the net well but we managed to get the win.”

The Inferno’s usual home rink is the Joan Snyder Arena at the Markin McPhail Centre at WinSport, but having the chance to play a game at the Saddledome, home of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, was a great opportunity for a great cause.

One of the primary objectives of the Inferno’s match against the Stars was to raise awareness and support for breast cancer. Fans who attended the free event Sunday morning were greeted with a glistening pink sheet of ice, and money raised at the event’s 50/50 draw was in support of breast cancer.

“Its special for sure, it’s definitely a cause we want to support and it was cool to play on pink ice too,” said Johnston. “We want to get awareness out there and help support it and that’s what we want to do in any way we can.”

The Inferno have a brief break in their schedule before hosting the Brampton Thunder Nov. 21-23 at the Joan Snyder Arena in Calgary.

bstasiewich@cjournal.ca