Embodying what is great about the Calgary Inferno, Jacquie Pierri’s dedication and professionalism were essential in helping shaping the club’s mythology during its early years. Following years of consecutive appearances in the Clarkson Cup finals, Pierri remains one the Inferno’s luminaries.
Originally selected 41st overall in the 2013 CWHL Draft, she has emerged as one of the draft’s better picks, growing into the role of alternate captain, while gaining the opportunity to skate in the second All-Star Game at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. For the proud career of this prominent player, this season has resulted in the reaching of fascinating new heights.
Heading into the Olympic break, Pierri has attained double digits in points (11), a career first, also reaching career highs in numerous offensive categories including goals (4) and assists (7). Ranking ninth in team scoring, Pierri also paces the Inferno with a sterling plus/minus rating of +23. Her four goals (including a game-winning goal and power play goal) eclipsed the previous point total from 2016-17, in which she recorded 3 points, part of an offensive renaissance for this highly versatile competitor.
Complementing such a sensational body of work on offense, the greatest highlight this season may be the cherished milestone of her 100th game in the colors of the Inferno, part of a very rare and exclusive sorority which saw Jenna Cunningham, a teammate from the 2016 Clarkson Cup championship team, become the first member. Achieving the feat on November 5 vs. the Markham Thunder, past and present collided while the promise of a bright future was also a defining theme on this majestic day.
Current General Manager and longtime teammate Kristen Haag joined Pierri at centre ice for the pregame ceremonies. In addition, both were joined by a pair of former teammates, signifying that the heritage of the Inferno is one expanding in importance. Although both currently have allegiances with the Markham Thunder, Chelsea Purcell, the first captain in the history of the Team Alberta/Calgary Inferno franchise was joined by Karolina Urban, who also skated during the Inferno’s inaugural season. As a side note, Purcell, Urban and Inferno superstar Delayne Brian all donned Canada’s jersey in a gold medal effort at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds in Zug, Switzerland.
“It was great to hit that 100 game milestone. It was extra special to have Purcell and Urban there, since they were my teammates during my first year. They were a big part of me feeling welcome when I moved to Calgary and they are both go-getter personalities who are a big part of what we have accomplished with our club.
Purcell and Urban were always pivotal in our fundraising and community efforts. I think that shows in the success of the Markham franchise this year. Their marketing and charity efforts have been outstanding.
In that vein, it’s been great to see the growth of the program in Calgary and the expansion of the community support throughout my five years. We have gone from fundraising to paychecks and from being completely unknown to nearly a household name in the city. I’m so proud of the Girls Hockey Calgary- Jr. Inferno partnership and I cannot wait to see how much things change through the next five.”
Statistically, there was a treasured milestone that augmented the meaning of such a pivotal chapter in Pierri’s career. The November 5th contest held a magical tone to it, as Pierre also recorded the first goal of her CWHL career. With the game tied at 2-apiece in the second period, Pierri scored at the 18:19 mark of the second period. Coincidentally, gaining the assist was Taryn Baumgardt, her first career assist in CWHL play. Serendipitously, said goal also stood as the game-winner.
Although it may certainly come as a surprise to discover that Pierri had never registered a goal in her CWHL sojourn. While she has displayed dedication on defense, along with strong playmaking ability and attention to the forecheck, she was truly rewarded for her assiduous efforts by achieving the elusive feat of her first career goal.
The importance of this pivotal milestone took on greater substance for the reason that three Inferno players recorded their first goals in the same game. In the latter half of the third, rookie sensations Kelly Murray and Kelly Gardner also logged their first CWHL goals, representing a remarkable moment in league history.
Uniquely, this tremendous trio did not score their milestone goals against the same goaltender. Pierri’s goal was scored on Liz Knox (who also competed at the 2015 ISBHF Worlds in Zug), while Murray and Gardner put the biscuit in the basket against CWHL All-Star Erica Howe. Lindsey Post added to theme of remarkable rookie achievement, as the legendary University of Alberta alum gained the win. Fittingly, Pierri recognized as First Star of the Game, while teammate Rhianna Kurio was bestowed Second Star honors, and Markham rookie Kristen Barbara gained the Third Star nod.
For a player of Pierri’s stature, it was only fitting that the attainment of such an important realization also represented a key moment in the chronicle of the franchise. Sharing in the jubilation of such a significant breakthrough alongside first year marvels Kayla Gardner and Kelly Murray, the feeling of pride was only matched by a splendid sense of humor.
“Yes, and very glad they weren’t waiting until their fifth season to accomplish that (laughs).”
Scoring her second career goal in the next game, a Remembrance Day affair on the road versus the Toronto Furies, it capped a sparkling five game scoring streak for the peerless Pierri, one which began on October 28 against the Kunlun Red Star. As a side note, said streak was the longest in her career, another major milestone. Coincidentally, Pierri’s second goal was also assisted by Baumgardt, scoring against Furies backstop Sonja van der Bliek. Before the holiday break, Pierri would find the back of the net once again, scoring on December 16 in a home date versus Toronto.
Highlighting such a magical season for Pierri is the chance to shine in an integral role as part of the club’s leadership core. With almost 25 per cent of their team battling for gold as members of Canada’s national women’s team in the Winter Games, an outpouring of opportunity has resulted in an unprecedented number of rookies in the Inferno’s ranks.
The welcoming of so many new faces has allowed Pierri a chance to give in return, emulating the kindness and feeling of belonging shown by the veterans when she arrived to Calgary during her rookie season of 2013-14. Undoubtedly, such experience and astuteness was fundamental in the transition of these rookies from college to professional play. Recognizing the contributions of so many on the Inferno with admirable humility, the presence of these rookies has also proven reciprocal for Pierri. Rejuvenating her love of the game, sharpening her killer instinct, stirring the competitive juices, the result is more than the enabling of Pierri to become an even greater player.
For both rookies and veterans alike, the season has been highlighted by the opportunity to compete against a pair of the CWHL’s expansion teams in China, the Kunlun Red Star and Vanke Rays. Coincidentally, the head coach of the Red Star is Digit Murphy, whom Pierri played for at the Ivy League level with the Brown Bears. Similar to this season with the Inferno, Pierri really came into her own during her senior season at Brown, reaching career high in goals, a feat she has enjoyed professionally in 2017-18.
Adding to the jubilation of a dream season for Pierri, a February 3, 2018 contest, which was also her first-ever in China resulted in scoring a goal, recording the fourth of the season. Less than five minutes after Katelyn Gosling scored the Inferno’s first goal of the game at the 4:53 mark, Pierri added to the lead as Brittany Esposito and Iya Gavrilova earned the assists. Part of a three-point night for Esposito, who scored twice and earned an assist, she is another veteran of the Inferno that has mirrored Pierri’s presence.
As expansion represented an unprecedented moment in the efforts of the league to grow the game globally, it propelled the proficient Pierri into the role of ambassador, for game, team and community alike, enriching her distinguished legacy with the club while enhancing her status as a leader.
“We have a great group this year. A ton of leaders, top to bottom, including in our rookie class.”
Of note, the legacies of the Inferno go beyond the number of notable names that have donned its colors. As important as the championships, awards and milestones, the fundraising events are an integral part of the Inferno’s culture.
From Jessica Campbell’s tireless work in helping to organize the Do It for Daron games, held in conjunction with the Sheldon Kennedy Foundation, to the Inferno’s support of the league’s partnership with You Can Play, highlighted by marching in the Calgary Pride Parade, along with You Can Play games where rainbow colored tape is an obligatory staple, Pierri’s commendable efforts are just as essential, establishing her as one of the Inferno’s proud line of hockey humanitarians.
The catalyst behind the Inferno’s Keep the Beat fundraiser, with proceeds going towards the Heart and Stroke Foundation, it stands as a key event on the club’s calendar. For the 2018 edition of Keep the Beat, Pierri was joined by Erica Kromm on local program Breakfast Television, raising awareness of such a great cause.
With the cause reaching its greatest numbers yet, it is confirmation of the team’s relevance in the local sporting community, empowering young women to pay it forward. Quick to recognize that the success was truly a team effort both on and off the ice, the feeling of friendship and belonging is one that extended to an alum of the club. With Cunningham on-hand for an inspiring apperance, it exemplified how the proud culture of the Inferno remains integral even after its tremendous players hang up their skates,
“We raised a record amount of money for the Heart and Stroke Foundation! I am very happy with the event. BTV has been great the past couple of years in helping us promote this event. It goes a very long way towards spreading awareness.
I am very grateful to everyone who supported the efforts and participated in the fundraising. Many of my teammates donated items and helped with organizing and marketing. It was really special to have the Foothills Medical Center Researchers at the event.
Jenna Cunningham did a great interview during intermission with one of their researchers to educate our viewers on how people can reduce their risk factors and stay healthy.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”
Photo credits: Dave Holland