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2016 Clarkson Cup Final: A look at the Calgary Inferno

I was able to ask questions to Matchsticks and Gasoline writer Angelica Rodriguez for a Calgary perspective on the Clarkson Cup

Shanna Martin

With the Clarkson Cup final on Sunday, we're continuing our look at the championship game with a Q&A with Matchsticks and Gasoline's Angelica Rodriguez for an inside look at Les Canadiennes opponent in the game, the Calgary Inferno.

Matchsticks and Gasoline is SB Nation's Calgary Flames community.

(I also answered Angelica's questions which you could read here.)

How big of a difference has Rebecca Johnston and Meghan Mikkelson-Reid made upon their returns this season?

A lot of difference. In four games, Johnston scored six points, which projected over 24 games played puts her at just about the same amount of production she had last season. She also has five points in the playoff series against Brampton (which shockingly only went to two games despite a late push by the Thunder in Game Two). She showed some great chemistry with Jill Saulnier off the bat as well, creating plays with great speed and puck movement. With Elana Lovell cooling off late in the season and Brianne Jenner needing support, Johnston's return couldn't have come at a better time.

As for Mikkelson, she's helped anchor the defense, which was a little loose and sloppy in its own end. She's responsible with the puck, can play the puck carrier very well, and can also jump into the play, which I saw a lot of against the Thunder in the semis. It took some time for the blueline to sort itself out, but it's definitely improved since the end of the regular season, and a lot of that has to do with Mikkelson coming back.

Calgary, with their offence, scores a lot as is to be expected. But they have also given up a lot of goals during the regular season. Why do you think that is?

I think it's a combination of things. First, two blueliners came into the lineup late -- before Mikkelson's return in January, the Inferno welcomed Brigette Lacquette, who was off finishing her degree at Minnesota Duluth in the States. Obviously with any newcomers also come the struggles of getting everyone on the same page and communicating like they need to be.

Second, overall I think puck control was an issue in the Inferno's own end -- lots of throwing the puck away out of the zone, getting pickpocketed at the blueline, etc. Calgary has some great puck movers, but I think a lot of their movement sometimes relies on speed over everything else. Once they began to slow down and focus on clearing the zone, they became more effective.

Third, Delayne Brian's game was a bit inconsistent over the course of the season. She's had some great saves and games, especially in the playoffs, but she can also give up softies if you catch her at the right time.

Rebecca Johnston is last season's Angela James Bowl winner, and there's a lot that can be said about her. Which of the other forwards should you look for?

Brianne Jenner is obviously a threat at all times, but the Inferno also have a good pair of rookies in Blayre Turnbull and Jill Saulnier. Saulnier in particular has established herself well this season, and has definitely created chemistry with Johnston. She can take advantage of playing alongside two Olympians by letting them draw the defenders to them while she gets inside the middle and wreaks havoc in front of the opposing goaltender. Jessica Campbell is also a speedy skater with good hands who looks to score off the rush a lot.

What is the key to a good Inferno game versus a bad, or average one?

Penalties. This team is super skilled, but it has a penchant for going to the box at the wrong times, as evidenced by the 14 penalties it took in two games of the semifinals against Brampton. Going to the box disrupts the flow, tires out the legs, and can create a lot of issues, especially against a good power play (which Montreal definitely has).

The one saving grace was that the penalty kill did much better in the playoffs, killing all 14 disadvantages. But if they repeat a six-or-seven penalty effort against a potent power play like Montreal's, with that kind of puck movement and power coming into the zone? I don't foresee it going the same way.

Delayne Brian got pulled in a must-win game in the regular season finale but bounced back against Brampton in the semi-final. How do you see the Inferno's goaltending going into the final?

It is pretty tough to call -- it basically depends on which Delayne Brian we get. She's had a couple of tough games this season, but then played some of her best hockey ever in the final couple of minutes against the Thunder in Game Two. If the D around her can help her see shots, and if she keeps it simple and doesn't try to play the puck too much, not to mention keeping the pads closed, she will do well.

What do you think the biggest factor will be in Sunday's game?

Whether or not Calgary can play a full and complete game. We know what the offense can do overall, but they need to get past a tough defense and Charline Labonté. The defense needs to be the shut-down D it was in the dying minutes against Brampton, and Brian needs to come up with those big saves when she is needed.