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Iya Gavrilova May Propel Inferno Towards Dynasty Status


Having competed with Russia on home soil at the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, Gavrilova’s exceptional career also ran parallel in Calgary, simultaneously carving an exceptional hockey legacy there. Competing with the Calgary Dinos at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) level, Gavrilova established herself as one of the elite players. In 2015, Gavrilova was honored with the Canada West Player of the Year Award, capturing the conference scoring title, followed by the Brodrick Trophy, awarded to the Most Outstanding Player in CIS women’s ice hockey. Of note, Gavrilova became the first Russian-born player to capture the coveted honor.

One year later, Gavrilova would capture the Canada West POY Award, becoming the first player in over a decade to capture the award in consecutive years, a feat last accomplished by Danielle Bourgeois of the Alberta Pandas. Complemented by multiple All-Canadian honors that were bestowed upon her during several memorable seasons with the Dinos, she would also graduate as their all-time scoring leader, finishing just one point ahead of Hayley Wickenheiser with 135.

Playing for head coach Danielle Goyette (whose coaching staff also included former Inferno head coach Tim Bothwell and former Ottawa CWHL player Mandi Duhamel in 2015-16), her world-class playing legacy included two gold medals for Canada at the Winter Games. As Gavrilova graduates to the Inferno, she now has the chance to call current Inferno stars Elana Lovell and Hayley Wickenheiser teammates once again, having both played with her on the Dinos. Their efforts would reach its pinnacle with a coveted national championship in 2012.  

Of note, fellow Russian-born player Alexandra Vafina, who also played for Shannon Miller at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, was a teammate of Gavrilova with the Dinos. Both would be part of the 2016 CIS First-Team All-Canadian squad, joined by fellow CWHL draft pick Katelyn Gosling. The Second-Team featured Brittney Fouracres, also part of the 2016 CWHL Draft Class, claimed by Montreal.

Selected by the Calgary Inferno in the third round of the 2016 CWHL Draft, becoming the first international player selected (the Inferno also chose Mexican national team player Claudia Tellez in the eighth round) it allows Gavrilova to extend her career in Calgary, a city that undoubtedly holds a special place in her heart, Similar to American-born Julie Chu, who captured a Clarkson Cup with the former Montreal Stars, Gavrilova holds the rare distinction of being a hockey hero in more than one country.

“Calgary became my second home throughout all these years being here, so I really love playing in this city. I always felt lots of support when I played with the Dinos, so I am happy to continue my hockey journey in Calgary.” 

In World Championships past, players such as Rebecca Johnston, Meaghan Mikkelson and Jillian Saulnier, among others, were rivals on the Canadian national team. The chance to call such distinguished competitors as teammates certainly incorporates some of the elements that Gavrilova shall look forward to in the newest chapter of her hockey career with the Inferno.

“The Inferno are a very talented team with lots of great players, so I am excited to learn from them. I am looking forward to new challenges and competing at the high level in CWHL.”

Taking into account Gavrilova’s scoring proficiency, having logged 35 points in her final season with the Dinos, it instantly propels her into the conversation for the 2017 CWHL Rookie of the Year Award. Of note, Lovell captured the honor in 2016, which would make franchise history for the Inferno, as the club has never had back-to-back recipients in a major awards category.

Undoubtedly, the most important prize that the Inferno are looking to gain in consecutive years is the coveted Clarkson Cup. With the chance to skate for the defending Clarkson Cup champions, it allows Gavrilova an opportunity to carve a special place in women’s hockey history. Among the international players that have captured the Clarkson Cup, including players from Austria (Janine Weber), Czech Republic (Katka Mrazova) and Japan (Kanea Aoki and Aina Takeuchi), there has never been a Russian-born player to win the Cup.

Having won a national championship with the Dinos, the chance to win a Clarkson Cup with the Inferno would allow Gavrilova to occupy such rarified air. As a side note, it would also place her in a cherished place in Calgary women’s sports history, as only two women have won championships with the Dinos and Inferno (Lovell and Wickenheiser).

Should Gavrilova win the Clarkson Cup in 2017, it would also result in a serendipitous milestone. Of note, the 2017 edition of the Cup finals shall be held at Ottawa’s Canadian Tire Centre, home of the NHL”s Senators. The arena holds special memories for Gavrilova and her Russian teammates, as it was the sight of a treasured milestone in 2013. As the host venue for the 2013 IIHF Women’s World Championships, Gavrilova and Team Russia defeated Finland in an emotional bronze medal game. Considering how a Cup victory would make Gavrilova the first Russian-born player to hold that privilege, it would only be fitting if it took place in Ottawa, truly bringing her career full circle.

“It would be a great honor for me! It would (also) be amazing to share this experience with such a accomplished group.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

Inferno jersey image obtained from Twitter:

Dinos action photo credited to: David Moll, Calgary Herald

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