From training camp in August to game six of the BCHL Fred Page Cup final, it’s been a wild ride for Jason Tatarnic and his Chilliwack Chiefs.
But now it’s over.
A 4-2 loss in Kelowna Saturday night sealed Chilliwack’s fate, leaving Tatarnic’s crew two wins shy of their ultimate goal.
On Monday morning, the bench boss leaned back in the chair in his office and assessed the season that was.
“When you experience winning it’s particularly disappointing (as a coach) because you want your players to feel that,” said Tatarnic, a three-time Maritime Hockey League champ guiding the Woodstock Slammers.
“I think I’m probably more disappointed losing this year than I was when we (Woodstock) lost to Penticton in the last game of the (2011-12) Royal Bank Cup, just because I think we had some unfinished business here.”
“But that’s the way it goes.”
Tatarnic is satisfied his crew gave everything they had against the Warriors.
He talked about Jordan Kawaguchi, Kale Kane, Linden Hora, Dennis Cholowski and others playing through injuries that may have sidelined them in a regular season game.
He believes that with a bounce or two in his team’s direction they could have won the Fred Page Cup, and it would be Chilliwack moving on to the Western Canadian championship.
“At the end of the day their (Kelowna’s) physicality took a toll on us in each game as the series went on,” Tatarnic said. “And it wasn’t just the final, it was the round-robin too.”
“That’s 11 games playing that style of hockey and it takes a toll on you.”
There are two reasons the Chiefs didn’t get it done.
Special teams were hit and miss, mostly miss, in the final.
The Chiefs scored four power play goals in a 4-2 game five win, but otherwise failed to make West Kelowna pay for taking penalties.
Chilliwack’s penalty killers surrendered too many back-breaking goals.
“I could count probably once on every PK where we had opportunities to clear the puck and we didn’t,” the coach noted. “That always comes back to bit you and it did so many times in this series.”
“That just kills you.”
The Chiefs depth also faltered against the Warriors.
Kawaguchi, Vimal Sukumaran and Darien Craighead combined for 27 goals in the post-season.
Bottom nine forwards not named Ryan Forbes — he had seven — combined to score 21.
Youngster Jesse Lansdell was a physical force but lost the scoring touch he showed netting 15 goals in the regular season.
Lansdell failed to light the lamp even once in the playoffs.
Kohen Olischefski, a potential National Hockey League draft pick this June, produced three goals and six points in 20 games after putting up 13 goals and 48 points in 57 regular season matches.
Trade deadline acquisition Taylor Allen collected just two goals and four points in the playoffs.
“We scored enough goals in this series to win, and you like a guy like Forbes and how much he added,” Tatarnic said. “But we had some guys who had trouble with the size and intensity that West Kelowna played with.”
“They struggled, and that happens sometimes.”
“All you can do is give them the opportunity to go out there and perform.”
Chilliwack’s defence had issues in the face of West Kelowna’s relentless forecheck.
But Tatarnic singled out Brown University bound Zach Giuttari for having an excellent playoffs.
“He was lights out, especially in the championship series,” Tatarnic said. “He was our best defenceman against the Warriors.”
Tatarnic now turns his attention to building next year’s roster, and you’ll get more on that in the Friday Chilliwack Progress.
The team will hold its annual spring camp June 5-6 and Tatarnic will be announcing new recruits shortly.
See chilliwackchiefs.net for more.