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INFERNO SEEK TO SECURE TOP SPOT IN CWHL

A single point in this weekend's series against Montreal would earn Calgary first place in the CWHL heading into the playoffs

by PAUL MAWDSLEY @pmawdsley23 / CalgaryFlames.com

One point.

That is all the Calgary Inferno need to lock up top spot in the Canadian Women's Hockey League ahead of the 2017 Clarkson Cup Playoffs but first, they will need to get past Les Canadiennes Montreal.

The Inferno (19-3-0) sit atop the league with 34 points. In a close second place, Les Canadiennes (16-4-2) are nipping at their heels and would love to overtake Calgary for top spot during this weekend's series. The two CWHL powerhouses will go head-to-head on Saturday (6:15 PM) and Sunday (12:15 PM) at WinSport.

That should be motivation enough, but Saturday's skate is much more than a game for the Inferno.

The team is hosting their 'Start The Spark' game, partnering with the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre (SKCAC) to help make a difference in the lives of hundreds of youth by providing mentorship and an avenue for youth to talk about mental health issues in their school communities.

"Its amazing to see the connection we make to kids at the school," Jessica Campbell explained to the Calgary Herald. "For us it's about making a difference in the community and our motto, changing lives one child at a time, really rings true when we can create awareness and build a community to discuss and support mental health issues."

The entire team is behind the cause and will be wearing special purple jerseys that will be auctioned off to support the Sparks Mentorship program.

With the excitement surrounding the charitable aspects of Saturday's contest and the expected sizeable crowd, the game could get lost in the shuffle.

"Any time there's benefit games, charity games, causes, we kind of drop the competitive piece in that aspect and we just play for the cause. Obviously when the puck drops, it's a hockey game and we're going to be both battling it out," Campbell told the Calgary Herald.

"We're just so pumped that we're going to have a massive fan base behind us hooting and hollering and cheering and just making it that much more exciting for both teams."

The contest won't need all the bells and whistles to be exciting, however.

Calgary and Montreal both exhibit plenty of firepower on offence and top-end skill between the pipes.

Les Canadiennes boast three of the CWHL's top four scorers in Marie-Philip Poulin (15G, 21A), Ann-Sophie Bettez (17A, 18A), and Caroline Ouellette (15G, 16A). That trio is extremely dangerous and will be aiming for a big showing in their final regular season weekend.

Between the pipes, Montreal is as strong as any team in the league. Netminder Charline Labonte currently leads in the CWHL in GAA at 1.49 through 14 games. She is also second in the league with a .936 save percentage.

9-1-0 in their last 10 starts, the Inferno bring a very balanced attack that should perform well against the elite skill of Les Canadiennes. With three extremely talented women in net, plenty of skilled forwards, and a strong backend, there are no real weaknesses to their lineup.

On offence, the Inferno are lead by captain Brianne Jenner (9G, 18A), Bailey Bram (12G, 10A), and Rebecca Johnston (7G, 14A). The Calgary forward corps leads the CWHL with 94 goals scored and have averaged 4.27 goals-per-game this year.

Not only do they lead the way on offence, but they've also allowed a league-low 40 goals.

Considering the talent that will be present in the pair of games, it guarantees to be a thrilling final weekend of action in the CWHL.

"Both teams always bring their best when we play each other," forward Haley Irwin told the Calgary Herald. "They're highly skilled, highly talented and they work hard. It should be a very exciting weekend."

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