That’s the amount of wins the Chilliwack Chiefs had through 58 regular season games in 2017-18.
Twenty six is also the number of wins the Chiefs have in 2018-19 after beating the Coquitlam Express 7-5 last Saturday night at Prospera Centre.
That victory came in their 37th game of the season.
“We’ve come together as a group really quickly this year and that showed on the ice in the first half before Christmas,” said veteran blueliner Marcus Tesink, who was a first-year player on the 2017-18 team and is part of the leadership group for the current edition of the Chiefs. “Last season we had a lot of guys in and out, myself included, and it took time to gel as a team.
“I think that’s the biggest difference this year.”
There’s truth in that.
Former head coach/general manager Jason Tatarnic went nuts with the transactions last season as his RBC Cup hosts sputtered at the start.
Throughout the regular season the team felt like a lot less than the sum of its parts, an underachieving group of individuals that didn’t truly come together until they won the RBC Cup.
This season’s team wasn’t supposed to be this good, certainly not 26-11-0-0 and second overall in the BCHL standings good.
Current head coach/GM Brian Maloney spent last summer talking about a young roster that would take its lumps in a ‘learning year.’
Framed that way, it’s natural to see these Chiefs as overachievers.
“We saw the skill and speed that we had in training camp and from the start we believed in this group,” Tesink said. “Even though we were a young group we knew we could win some games. It doesn’t phase us at all if everyone else thinks we’re overachieving because we’re doing what we set out to do.”
The upside-down expectations thing isn’t lost on Tesink though.
The roster that was built to win a national championship underperformed. The roster meant to endure growing pains in a ‘re-tooling’ season is flipping the script.
“It’s a weird thing and you can’t really explain it, but it just fell into place that way,” Tesink said. “There was a lot of excitement and a positive outlook when we started this season, and our young guys have really listened well.
“They’ve taken everything that Brian (Maloney) and (associate head coach) Cam (Keith) have said and tried to run with it. They’re trying to learn every day and get better.”
The Chiefs are back in action Saturday night, hosting Coquitlam again at Prospera Centre with a 7 p.m. puck drop.