As the Calgary Inferno look towards qualifying for their first postseason berth, the arrival of Jessica Wong could not have come at a better time. The first overall selection in the 2013 CWHL Draft, Wong’s arrival serves as a harbinger of optimism for a franchise looking to ride a strong run of momentum.
Making her CWHL debut in a January 12 tilt against the Toronto Furies at Toronto’s MasterCard Centre, Wong proved she was well worth the wait. A two assist performance would prove to be the difference as the Inferno gained an important two points in their push for the playoffs.
The opening frame would see the Inferno pepper Furies goalkeeper Christina Kessler with 12 shots. Despite their efforts, it was Furies veteran Meagan Aarts who would open the scoring. With the assist going to rookie Jessica Vella, Aarts slipped the puck past rookie netminder Delayne Brian at the 9:44 mark.
Calgary’s tenacity would pay dividends in the second stanza as Wong would log the first points of her promising CWHL career. In a period riddled by nine penalties, Calgary capitalized twice on the same power play opportunity.
With Furies superstar and 2010 Winter Games gold medalist Tessa Bonhomme serving a penalty for cross-checking, Wong and Jenna Cunningham made history. Assisting on Cunningham’s power play tally at 9:58, Wong not only picked up her first career CWHL point but tied the score.
Merely six seconds later, Cunningham scored again on the power play, with the assist going to Wong once again. This dynamic duo would combine on the two fastest power play goals scored in Calgary Inferno franchise history as the Furies lead vanished.
Heading into the third period, a stout defensive struggle took place as both clubs combined for only nine shots. Despite eight power play opportunities for the Furies, Brian was solid between the pipes as she was a key factor in nullifying the player advantage.
In addition, the contest would serve as a milestone for Brian. A former star with the now-defunct Wayne State Warriors of the College Hockey America conference, she was also selected by the Inferno in the 2013 draft. Her first career CWHL win places the club two points ahead of the Brampton Thunder for the final playoff spot.
As Wong and Brian both provided memorable performances in a historic contest for Calgary, their experience as champions will only help set a positive tone for Calgary. Wong is well-known for having scored the game-winning goal in the 2010 Frozen Four.
Last summer, Brian played for the gold medal winning Canadian contingent at the 2013 World Ball Hockey Championships in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Picking up key wins is quickly developing the confidence for a Calgary club whose underdog status is emerging into one of the most inspiring women’s hockey stories for the New Year.
Image obtained from: Hockey Canada Images