The Calgary Inferno are brushing up on international relations in a two-game series against the Japanese Women’s National Team.
The Canadian Women’s Hockey League team is in Japan playing a couple of friendly matches as the national team prepares for the Olympic qualifier.
Team Japan sits in seventh place in the IIHF rankings and will host the qualification tournament to secure a spot in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyongChang, South Korea. They will be facing off against Germany (8), Austria (11) and France (12) from Feb. 9 to 12.
“We’re really excited about this opportunity,” said Inferno head coach Scott Reid. “Playing Japan will be a good experience for the girls, and we can’t take them lightly. They’ve been training hard and we were happy to be invited as part of their preparation for the upcoming tournament.”
In their first game at the Hakucho Oji Ice Arena, the Japanese national team topped the Inferno 3-1.
The Inferno got into penalty trouble in the first period, allowing the Japanese team to capitalize on the man advantage when Ayaka Toko shelved the puck past goalie Delayne Brian. The Inferno were outshot 13-5.
The Inferno stepped up their offensive presence in the second period but again Japan broke loose on a two-on-one that Shoko Ono cashed in to give the national team a 2-0 lead as they headed to the third period.
Louise Warren got the Inferno on the scoreboard scoring from her knees, lifting the puck past Nana Fujimoto.
“We had a slow start but as the game kept going we developed more and got our legs moving and picked it up in the second and third, but had trouble executing,” said Calgary’s player of the game, Louise Warren. “Bailey (Bram) had a good forecheck and passed it through everyone from her backhand and right onto my stick. We need to start off really strong tomorrow; start out getting pucks to the net and hard forechecks.”
The Inferno ended up outshooting the national team 29-27.
Two Japanese national team members have links to the Inferno. Akane Hosoyamada and Aina Takeuchi are blueliners who are regulars on the Inferno lineup. It is Hosoyamada’s first year on the national team and Takeuchi’s seventh.
Both have their sights set on beating their club team in the second game to be played on Sunday at 2 a.m. (MT).
“Our team is just going to focus on ourselves with a focus on the D zone coverage and shot blocking,” said Hosoyamada. “Our goal is to qualify for the Olympics and we’re all focused on that goal. We’ll utilize our speed and agility against the Inferno.”
The Inferno came out stronger in the second game winning the match 4-1.
Iya Gavrilova scored a pair in the opening period for the Inferno. The first goal came on a two-man advantage then Gavrilova buried the puck past goalie Fujimoto off a hard blast that sent Gavrilova to her knees.
The Inferno continued their pressure into the second period with Sarah Davis putting the team up 3-0 over Japan.
A scramble in front of Inferno netminder Genevieve Lacasse early on in the third period led to Japan’s only goal courtesy of Ami Nakamura. The Inferno’s final marker of the game came on the power play with Davis making it 4-1.
“I think the amount of training and the support of the Japanese Ice Hockey Federation, having that support has really brought their program to a high level. I think they have great players and great skill and I think they will be a great team on the international scene,” said Inferno forward Brianne Jenner in a press conference after the second game.
Emerance Maschmeyer and Lacasse split the goaltending duties for the Inferno in the second game.
In CWHL play the Inferno have already clinched a playoff spot and sit atop the standings with Les Canadiennes Montreal in second. Clinching the spot guarantees the Inferno will host a playoff series on home ice.
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