In reflecting on a remarkable season for the Calgary Inferno, a key aspect was attributed to its rookie class. From selecting Jessica Wong with the first overall pick, other rookies would include Danny Stone, Julie Paetsch and DeLayne Brian. Joining them was Rhianna Kurio, a native of Calgary, selected 56th overall in the 2013 CWHL Draft, who played at the NCAA level with the Union Dutchwomen.
At Union, Kurio had the opportunity to play for assistant coach Julie Chu, one of the world’s most accomplished female hockey players. In four years for the Dutchwomen, Kurio accumulated 27 points (her final point came on February 16, 2013 against Yale) while graduating with a degree in neuroscience.
Making her CWHL debut in a road contest on November 9, it would prove to be an exciting experience for Kurio. Despite a hard-fought 3-2 loss, there was a feeling of validation for Kurio. Taking into account that a generation ago, women did not have the opportunity to play past university, she gracefully acknowledges what it means to do so today,
“My first CWHL game was in Toronto against the Furies. I remember being really excited about playing in my first professional game. It was a lot of fun to be able to continue playing at an elite level and compete some of the best hockey players in women’s hockey.”
Although Kurio would have to wait until the 10th game of the season to register her first CWHL point, a goal in a 5-2 road loss to Montreal on December 15, it was certainly an early Christmas gift for her. Scoring at the 2:43 mark of the third period against second generation goalie Catherine Herron, Abygail Laking and Jenna Cunningham earned the assists on her milestone goal.
After the holiday break, Kurio was moved from center to right wing. The move would pay dividends as her strong skating and playmaking skills resulted in registering five more points, including the first game-winning goal of her career. In a 4-2 win on March 2 against the defending Clarkson Cup champion Boston Blades, Kurio scored the game-winner at the 16:22 mark of the second stanza against rookie backstop Brittany Ott.
The win for the Inferno would prove to be crucial for the team’s confidence as it would prove to be the first in a four-game winning streak to close out the season. As a side note, Kurio would earn an assist in the fourth win of the streak. In addition, said streak provided Calgary with its first winning season and first postseason berth, proving to be one of several memorable moments for Kurio,
“There were a lot of memorable moments throughout the season. One that stands out as my favorite is when our team got the opportunity to play in the Saddledome. It was a fun experience to be able to play in the same arena as the Calgary Flames and it was exciting to play in front of a large home crowd.
Making it to the Clarkson Cup playoffs was extremely rewarding. Especially for our team, since it was the first time Calgary had ever made it to the playoffs.”
While three losses in the Clarkson Cup postseason was not the coming-out party that the franchise hoped for, the opportunity to play for the treasured prize signified a remarkable growth for the franchise. DeLayne Brian becoming the first Inferno player to win a major award was evidence that brighter days are ahead for the franchise. Employing optimism and maturity, Kurio is hoping to be part of the anticipated glory days to come,
“The whole Clarkson Cup experience was great; from the awards banquet to the high level of hockey. Our team did not necessarily get the results we were hoping for. Yet, I think it was a step in the right direction for our team, and I look forward to having another opportunity for the Clarkson Cup next year.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”