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Blades edge Inferno over the weekend in possible preview of Clarkson Cup Final matchup

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A one-goal loss, a shootout win, and a 4-1 statement game comprised the Blades' weekend in Calgary. The two best teams in the CWHL now find themselves in a battle for first place.

Brianna Decker added six more points over the weekend to take second place in CWHL scoring after only eight games.
Brianna Decker added six more points over the weekend to take second place in CWHL scoring after only eight games.
Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The Blades have been good all year, but the Inferno have been just a little bit better.  The Blades' two forfeit losses on the record haven't helped, either.  With the season drawing to a close, though, the Blades have a chance to overtake first place in the league.  The Inferno's offense has cooled off as of late, while the Blades gained Brianna Decker.  This weekend, Decker passed up Blades' captain Hilary Knight to lead the team in points, as Knight did not travel to Calgary with the team as she is rehabbing an apparent foot injury (according to her Instagram).  Decker is now second in the league in points, too, behind only Calgary forward Rebecca Johnston, who has 35 points in 22 games.  Decker has 23 in just 8, and added 3 goals and 3 assists over the weekend.  With four games remaining, Boston can easily overtake Calgary in the standings before the end of the season, and it would not be surprising at all if these two teams next take the ice against each other in March 7's Clarkson Cup Final matchup.

Here's an abridged recap, because these games were at weird times due to the time difference.  Thanks to the Calgary Inferno radio team, who broadcasted all Inferno home games this season.

Friday 2/13: Blades 3 Inferno 4

In a wild second period, the Blades took the lead and gave it up again and fell to the Inferno 4-3 after being unable to find the equalizer in the third period.  A strong performance by rookie Jordan Smelker (deployed on a line with Decker) created the Blades' first two goals of the game within the first 5 minutes of the second period.  A mere 11 seconds after she assisted on Smelker's second goal, Decker notched an unassisted tally to put the Blades up 3-2.  Rebecca Johnston would tie it up, though, and the game winner would come from Danielle Stone at 13:52.  The Inferno would put 17 shots on Brittany Ott in the second period alone.  The third period was surprisingly slow considering the close score, and Boston would only be able to generate 7 shots.

Saturday 2/14: Blades 4 Inferno 3

Rebecca Johnston opened the scoring in the first, and Jillian Dempsey added a goal in the second, but this time it was all goals in the third.  Smelker added another tally, and the Inferno's Bailey Bram had two goals.  It came down to a late period power play for the Blades to tie it up, and Blake Bolden delivered, sending the game to overtime, which gave way to a shootout.  Brittany Esposito scored on the first attempt on Geneviève Lacasse, but she was able to shut the door until Casey Pickett could tie the shootout on the Blades' third attempt.  Blake Bolden would be the hero again, winning the shootout in the fifth round.

Sunday 2/15: Blades 4 Inferno 1

The final game of the weekend was a measuring stick for both teams, and the Blades came out on top.  They took a lead in the first period on a slapshot from Monique Lamoureux, and went up 2-0 in the second period on a shorthanded goal from Corinne Buie.  Brianna Decker added an insurance goal a few minutes later.  The Inferno would score a shorthanded goal of their own, this time from Brittany Esposito, but the score would hold until Decker could put the nail in the coffin with a power play tally in the third period.

Knight's absence with an injury seems to have hardly put a dent in the Blades' pace down the stretch with Decker dominating every team she faces.  If Knight returns for the Clarkson Cup tournament, Boston will have a deadly offense that will be hard to match.

The Blades return to Massachusetts, facing the Brampton Thunder at Milton Academy this Saturday, and again at Clark Athletic Center on Sunday.  After that, it's on to Montreal for the final two games of the season.