(Submitted by Alex Hoegler, BCHL communications)
When the Chilliwack Chiefs and Wenatchee Wild face off in the second-round this Friday, it will be a matchup of two teams who have been well-rested for the series.
The Chiefs were the only team to pull off a first-round sweep, dispatching the Coquitlam Express. As a result, they haven’t played since March 8, meaning they’ll have had 10 days off between games.
Chilliwack head coach Jason Tatarnic has kept the team focused and prepared, as they’ve balanced the time off with “high-tempo” practices, weekend rests and “competitive drills.”
“When you get time off, you’re healthy and you get rest, it’s always good for your hockey team,” he said. “When you’re banged up, that’s when the problems rise. Come to practice time, you can’t get in those competitive drills.”
Though Chilliwack won the first seed in the Mainland division by seven points, Wenatchee won the season series, 4-3. Five of the games were decided by one goal.
Tatarnic said the budding rivalry took off when the teams met four times in December and January, where the Wild took three of the four meetings.
“We played each other pretty close in proximity there, in some important games,” he said. “I thought that’s when the rivalry really took off, I think it’s a healthy one.”
The Wild won their first-round series by defeating the Langley Rivermen in five games, led by Kyle Stephan (nine points,) Brendan Harris (eight points,) and Charlie Combs (four goals.) Tatarnic said the Wild’s stable offense has been the key to their success.
“Wenatchee’s a very balanced team in scoring, all year they’ve had three lines that can score. They’re getting contributions from everyone,” Tatarnic said. “Our focus is to push the pace, dictate the pace and make sure we’re sound defensively…limit odd man rushes against.”
The winner of this series will go to a three-team round robin, along with the winners of the Interior and Island divisions. The first two teams to reach three wins will face off for the Fred Page Cup.
“We’re looking forward to it. (It’s) Wenatchee’s first year in the league and their first playoff experience,” Tatarnic said. “They’re a good team, they’re a classy team and Bliss (Littler) is a great coach over there.”