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The Inferno will face the Toronto Flurries in the opening round of the 2017 Clarkson Cup Playoffs

by PAUL MAWDSLEY @pmawdsley23 /

The defence of the Clarkson Cup begins this weekend for the Calgary Inferno.

Their first obstacle: the Toronto Furies.

Calgary will host the Eastern foe beginning on Feb. 24 at Carstairs Memorial Arena instead of Joan Snyder Arena at WinSport as a way to build a relationship with the Rocky Mountain Female Hockey League (RMFHL) and to promote the sport to more young women.

While it's not their usual home arena, the Inferno are still hoping to have that home-ice feeling with many fans following them north.

"We're actually playing in Carstairs. We've never played there before, so we kind of have home-ice advantage and hopefully lots of our fans come out to give us that support," said assistant captain Bailey Bram.

Calgary is the top seed heading into the playoffs after a win last weekend against Les Montreal Canadiennes.

Sparked by a sold-out crowd and an emotional cause, the team was able to shut down Les Canadiennes in a 3-0 win to clinch top spot in the league.

"We knew it wouldn't be easy. They're a great team. We had our 'Start the Spark' game, which raised money for youth mental health. We knew how much work went into it and the girls all rallied behind Jessica Campbell, who organized the whole game," explained Bram. "It was a sold out crowd and we fed off the energy, it was such a great atmosphere. It was a great job by the whole team."

Campbell, a forward for Calgary, is also the Director of Communications for the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre. She was the visionary leader behind the 'Start the Spark' initiative.

The win helped the Inferno finish the CWHL season in first place for the first time in team history. The 40 points (20-4-0-0 record) Calgary earned also set a record for the most points in a single-season by the team.

"It was a goal of ours all year. It was something that's never been accomplished by the Inferno, so I think it was in the back of our minds," Bram said of finishing in first place. "Going into the weekend, we knew that we needed just one point and we solidified first. To get that first win on the weekend was pretty awesome for us."

During the regular season, the Inferno were too much for the Furies to handle, as the Calgary franchise won all six of their matches. The Inferno haven't hosted Toronto since Nov. 12-13 when they won both games in overtime.

Bram is confident that if Calgary can play the way they have all season, they can beat the Furies.

"I think if we stick to our game plan and stick to our systems and bring our 'A' game, we should be able to win," she said. "At times this year we've been a bit inconsistent and sometimes taking our opponents lightly, but we understand what's at stake, so we'll be ready to play come game time.

"We know playoffs is a whole new season and that Toronto will be coming hard."

The winner of this weekend's three game semi-final will advance to the Clarkson Cup Championship Game on March 5 at the Canadian Tire Centre in Ottawa. Should the Inferno earn a trip to the Nation's Capital, they will face the winner of the Montreal and Brampton Thunder semi-final match-up.

That trip isn't the top priority for Calgary, though.

"We don't want to look too far ahead of ourselves and we have to beat Toronto this weekend," said Bram.

"We're just excited for puck drop."


Game 1 - Friday, February 24, 8:00 PM, Carstairs Memorial Arena
Game 2 - Saturday, February 25, 3:30 PM, Joan Snyder Arena at WinSport
Game 3 (if necessary) - Sunday, February 26, 12:45 PM, Carstairs Memorial Arena

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