Pre-Season Preview: Calgary Inferno

Pre-Season Preview: Calgary Inferno!

The Calgary Inferno recently had their pre-season training camp, giving us our first real idea of what the team could look like this year. Calgary finished the 2013/2014 season solidly in the middle of the league, with 25 points on a 24 game season. They were one point behind the Boston Blades, and two ahead of eventual Clarkson Cup winners, the Toronto Furies. They had a very middle of the pack power play as well, but the second best penalty kill, behind Montreal. And boy, they needed a good penalty kill, because they took the second most penalties. They were a pretty middle of the road team overall last year– how is this year’s team going to distinguish themselves?

First off, the team’s coaching has changed– Tim Bothwell, the former head coach, has moved on after a year’s tenure, and Kevin Haller is now the new head coach, after two seasons with the Inferno as an assistant coach. Haven’t seen any announcement yet on a new assistant. Not sure what prompted the change, but I’m not really concerned– Haller’s been with the team for a few years, although he appears to have less experience with the higher levels of women’s coaching outside of that. Bothwell had six years as the head coach at the University of Vermont, and some time as an assistant coach with the Canadian National team, including the 2006 Olympics.

On the bench, Calgary’s had some changes as well– Karolina Urban, a forward for first the Toronto Furies and later the Calgary Inferno, has decided she needs to focus on her Master’s Degree at the University of Calgary, and is stepping away from the CWHL. The tweet that announced it was somewhat ambiguous, but it appears to be a retirement from the league and hockey at large, and not just a hiatus.

Mike Burse breaks her stats down a bit more over at his post on her retirement but she was a very solid contributor, and will be missed.

Also not at training camp this year was forward Chelsea Purcell, a founding member of Team Alberta/Calgary Inferno, and their first captain. It sounds like she’s taking the year off, and moving to Toronto. We may see her again in the CWHL, but probably not for Calgary.

Calgary also lost defender Jocelyn Larocque to the Brampton Thunder in a trade for Bailey Bram. Larocque played for Team Canada at the Sochi Olympics last year, and did not play for Calgary. However, she played some solid minutes for Canada, with an average of 21 minutes per game, and had a goal and an assist in five games while in Sochi.

Bailey Bram, traded for Larocque, last played for Brampton during the 2012/2013 season, spending last season training with Team Canada only to be released during one of the final round of cuts in December 2013. While with Brampton as a forward, she had 18 points in 24 games. (6 goals, 12 assists.)

Rebecca Johnston of the Toronto Furies, and Haley Irwin of the Montreal Stars were also acquired by Calgary. Johnston, a forward, was with Team Canada last season, and had two goals and three assists in Sochi, in five games. While with Toronto in the 12/13 season, she had 8 goals, 17 assists in 24 games.

Haley Irwin, a forward, also played for Canada in Sochi, scoring one assist in the two games she played. Irwin missed Canada’s first three games with an upper-body injury sustained during exhibition play in Austria. She appears to be back to full health now, however. Calgary will be the third CWHL team for Irwin, who was drafted by Brampton in the 2012 Draft, coming to the CWHL with an NCAA championship with the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs, a gold medal with Canada at the 2010 games, and gold at the 2012 Women’s Worlds. She moved to the Montreal Stars in the 2012 off-season. She comes to Calgary still in pursuit of the Clarkson Cup to complete her (unofficial) Triple Gold collection, having just missed Montreal’s string of Clarkson Cup victories.

Photo Name Position Former Team 2012/2013 CWHL Stats GP PTS G A PIM
 Bailey Bram (Brampton) Bailey Bram F Brampton 24 18 6 12 34
 Rebecca Headshot Rebecca Johnston F Toronto Furies 24 25 8 17 4
 haley_irwin Haley Irwin F Montreal Stars 20 21 10 11 36

Returning to Calgary in net is the CWHL Goaltender of the Year, Delayne Brian. You may remember my confusion over this award last year, as Brian finished 5th in the league with a save percentage of .895, but Brian broke several records for Calgary’s goaltending as a rookie last year, which may explain the award. Not returning will be Kathy Desjardins, who is retiring from playing hockey, and is looking to focus on coaching.

Photo Name GP SV%
 Delayne_Brian Delayne Brian 14 .895

Returning players of note are last year’s captain, Kelsey Webster, and last year’s first round draft pick for Calgary, Jessica Wong, and Calgary’s leading scorer, Danny Stone.

Four of Calgary’s top five draft pics are forwards, and include some heavy offensive power. Their first round pick, Sarah Davis from the University of Minnesota, was consistently in the top five points leaders for Minnesota during her time there, against some heavy competition for the lead, such as Amanda Kessel.

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Calgary’s second round pick was the only blueliner that they picked up in the first five rounds of the draft. Hayleigh Cudmore, from Cornell, was one of the team’s best and most productive defense, and will be a big asset to Calgary’s blue line. Notably, she also wasn’t highly penalized while with Cornell– I would expect to see this continue with Calgary, which is good news for their highly penalized squad.

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Louise Warren, a forward from Boston University, is also likely to show up in Calgary’s lineup next season. In a program laden with names familiar to CWHL fans and women’s hockey fans in general, such as Toronto’s Jenelle Kohanchuk and Jenn Wakefield or Canadian heartbreaker Marie-Phillip Poulin, Warren’s numbers show a distinct and impressive improvement over the course of her career at BU. They culminate in a break-out senior year where Warren ended the season second in points.

Season Team GP G A PTS PTS/G Pen PIM PIM/G
2010-2011 Boston University 38 5 5 10 0.26 10 20 0.53
2011-2012 Boston University 37 8 10 18 0.49 5 10 0.27
2012-2013 Boston University 37 15 19 34 0.92 10 20 0.54
2013-2014 Boston University 38 27 19 46 1.21 13 26 0.68
Career Totals 150 55 53 108 0.72 38 76 0.51

If Warren can continue to maintain that kind of performance while adjusting to the CWHL, I expect we’ll all get very familiar with her name.

The remaining players drafted by Calgary are in the table below. You might notice that I don’t have stats for them; this is because I had a very hard time finding complete and accurate records of all of their stats.

Postion Name Previous Team
F Jessica Campbell Cornell University
F Brittany Esposito Northeastern
F Kristen Hagg SAWHA Calgary Chargers
D Samantha Fieseler Pursuit of Excellence
D Aina Takeuchi Japan National Team
F Cailaine Inglis U of Calgary
D Glenda Edie U of Lethbridge
F Christina Kelly UPEI
D Rebecca Mosher Saint Mary’s
D Cassidy Anderson NAIT
F Dayna King Sask Wheat Queens
G Camille Trautman Red Deer College
G Olivia Ross Western University

Take note of Aina Takeuchi, who played for Team Japan at Sochi. She’s the first Japanese player to be drafted to the CWHL, and is aiming to become the first Japanese player to play in the league.

OKAY, that was a lot of player information. Or maybe it only feels like that to me, because I’ve been trying to write this preview for almost a week now. Not having complete stats available online is a pain for when you’re trying to estimate and compare players. I could make some guesses as to why Calgary ended up drafting so many players with incomplete and fragmentary hockey careers chronicled online, but I don’t actually know enough about how hockey is run in Canada for that.

However, Calgary is the team that had the most player movement and transactions over this off-season, and it’s pretty clear to see that most of their moves have been calculated to increase their offensive power. They’re going to have an ARSENAL of quality offensive talent, with experienced players to provide leadership.

On the defensive side, however, I’m a little more concerned about Calgary. They have a solid core of defenders in Jessica Wong, despite an injury shortened rookie season, Jacquie Pierri, and Tegan Schroeder, and Cudmore will be a welcome addition. However, I am a little worried about their depth on defense, and depending on how their goaltending situation shakes out, they may need it. Brian and Desjardins split the game time fairly evenly last season, Brian with 14 games and Desjardins with 11. While Brian was not a bad goaltender for Calgary at all, I think one of Calgary’s newly drafted goaltenders is going to have to step up and help out.

Another thing that could help Calgary out a lot is to cut down on their penalty time. While Calgary was second in most PIMs, worse was the fact that I felt like they took more major penalties than the average– which is a lot of stress on a good, but not amazing, power play. (I can’t prove that they took more majors without crawling through all the game sheets individually, so y’all are not getting that today.)

While I think Calgary has a pretty good chance to make an appearance in Markham come next March, they’re still a young team trying to find their identity. They’ve gone through a lot of organizational changes recently, and while I think their inaugural appearance at the Clarkson Cup last season boded well for their future success, they still need some time to develop before they’re a true contender. I’m looking forward to see that develop, but I think it could be risky to go full hog on the offense without a truly solid backend. This could, however, be my own defense-first nature talking.

In any case, Pierri seems to have a head-start on that whole reducing PIMs bit. 🙂

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