Inferno defy the odds in stunning Clarkson Cup victory

Hailey Wichenheiser did what she always does best, she creates chances. And 23 seconds after Les Canadiennes closed the gap to 4-2, she and Blayre Turnbull combined to once again take a three goal lead with a slapper.

OTTAWA — Blayre Turnbull had just wired a one-timer top shelf for her second goal of the Clarkson Cup final. What happened next, the Calgary Inferno forward says, wasn’t planned. Well, not exactly.

Turnbull skated up the boards and did an enthusiastic dab—you know, the Cam Newton-popularized arm-to-the-face move—as the crowd at Canadian Tire Centre roared and her teammates mobbed her.

“Someone actually mentioned to me after my first goal that I didn’t do the dab,” the 22-year-old from Stellarton, N.S., said, grinning, minutes after she and the Inferno upset the Les Canadiennes of Montreal in an 8-3 routing to claim the Canadian Women’s Hockey League championship title.

“I was lucky enough to get another goal and have the chance to do it,” Turnbull said. “So, I did.”

It was quite a night for Turnbull and for the Inferno. Four players—herself, Brianne Jenner, Jessica Campbell and Rebecca Johnston—scored twice apiece to bring Calgary its first-ever Clarkson Cup title in front of a record CWHL crowd of 4,082.

This Calgary domination wasn’t the script most expected: Montreal lost just three times in the regular season, finishing with a league-best record, and its goalie Charline Labonte was the best in the CWHL, with a 1.52 goals-against average in the regular season.

But Calgary managed to get seven pucks past her, plus an empty-netter.

As Inferno alternate and national team veteran Hayley Wickenheiser put it: “It wasn’t her night. But it was our night.” (Wickenheiser had two assists in the win, including a nice saucer pass to set up Turnbull’s second goal).

It was Inferno goalie Delayne Brian who stole the show, making 41 stops and earning MVP playoff honours. The 25-year-old from Winnipeg had her work cut out for her, too, facing a Montreal team that boasts the league’s top four scorers, including CWHL MVP Marie-Philip Poulin.

Brian was all smiles after the game. “It’s been a long time since I’ve won something, so it feels awesome,” she said.

“When they score eight goals, I just kinda have to do my job in the back end,” she added. “My team was making my job pretty easy. No complaints on my end at all.”

It was Brian who was at the bottom of a massive pile of Inferno players who exploded off the bench after time expired, tossing their gloves and sticks and jumping on their goalie. Girl on Fire—the Inferno’s appropriately selected goal song—played for the ninth time of the evening.

Jenner, Calgary’s captain, accepted and passed the Clarkson Cup to a couple veteran players who had tears in their eyes.

The Inferno had never played in a Clarkson Cup final before this, and they came out firing. Though they were outshot and outplayed at times in the game, it was Calgary’s Johnston who scored first, and the Inferno answered quickly after Poulin tied it up on a power-play goal.

The Inferno goals kept coming after that; Jenner’s first of the game, followed by Campbell’s first, followed by two from Turnbull.

“Anytime they scored, we answered right back,” Jenner said. “We didn’t let the momentum change.”

“It feels a little bit surreal right now,” she added, grinning. “It was our goal at the beginning of the season but to actually accomplish it is pretty exciting.”

When it was suggested that the team cover dinner for their goalie, who faced 41 shots and had perhaps her best game of the season, Jenner had a different idea. After all, Brian’s playoff MVP award comes with a $1,000 cheque.

“Maybe the bill’s on her,” Jenner said, smiling. “But I’ll open doors for her and make sure she’s OK tonight.”

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