It was back on March 11, when the Prince George Spruce Kings knocked out the Chiefs in Game 7 after a hard-fought series that left the Chiefs in a difficult position. As the host team of the RBC Cup there was still plenty of meaningful hockey to play despite more than two months off.
Head coach of the Chiefs Jason Tatarnic put in place a four-step plan to ensure his team would be ready to perform on the national stage.
“We believe our conditions will probably be the best it has been all year,” said Tatarnic. “Some of the players have already said that this phase has been more difficult than training camp.”
It’s something Chiefs captain Will Calverley echoed when asked how the last few weeks have gone.
“We started going hard in the first weeks, practicing five days and having only one day off and then going another five,” said Calverley. “Now we’re into a cycle where we practice one day and play a mini game the next and then have a day off. It’s been a bit of a grind but we understand that we had some time off so we want to make sure we are the best-conditioned team.”
Rest was a key part of Tatarnic’s four-phased plan as following the loss to PG, he sent his players home for a month to heal up and be ready to work once again once they came back. Rest and health could be one of the deciding factors in the tournament, with the other four teams coming in having played hockey from early September through May. Opponents’ fatigue could give the Chiefs just the advantage they need to be successful.
It’s not impossible that the host Chiefs can come out victorious. In 2005, the Weyburn Red Wings of the SJHL won the RBC cup on home ice after they were eliminated by the Humboldt Broncos. Tatarnic was an assistant coach on that Humboldt team. Even last year in the Memorial Cup, the host Windsor Spitfires lost in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs and ended up as national champions.
“There are some advantages as the home team,” said Tatarnic. “We have the advantage of being in our own beds each night, there are some things that go our way and some that don’t. We are going to try and use every little advantage available to us.”
The excitement within the Chiefs locker room has begun to grow as well. After all the work they’ve put in, the team is starting to realize how close they are to playing in the RBC Cup. It’s not an opportunity that comes along very often.
“Obviously when we lost out in the first round we were a little disappointed,” said Calverley. “But when we came back we quickly realized that we had something that very few teams get and that’s a second chance to win a national championship. It’s been a grueling couple of weeks but the guys are excited to get going.”
Tatarnic believes this is a great chance for the Chiefs to prove that they are a good team and belong in the RBC Cup. The Chiefs finished the year fourth in the Mainland division with 58 points (26-26-3-3), only a few points out of second. Tatarnic also said that the high quality of play throughout the BCHL all season has prepared his side for the national stage.