Jake Smith (left) and his Chilliwack Chiefs face Charlie Barrow (right) and the Coquitlam Express in the first round of the BCHL playoffs.

Jake Smith (left) and his Chilliwack Chiefs face Charlie Barrow (right) and the Coquitlam Express in the first round of the BCHL playoffs.

Coquitlam Express standing in Chilliwack’s path

Chilliwack's first round opponent is a Coquitlam Express team they smacked around regularly in seven regular season BCHL games.

Chilliwack Chiefs head coach Jason Tatarnic says his team is healthy and ready to roll into the BCHL playoffs, and that includes the goalies.

Starter Aidan Pelino hasn’t played since Feb. 17, though he has been on the bench as Matteo Esposito’s backup the last few games.

“Maybe,” Tatarnic said with a  coy grin when asked if Pelino could have played last weekend, when Espo was lit up for eight goals in an 8-5 season ending loss to Victoria.

Esposito went the distance in three games last weekend and three the weekend before.

It seemed to catch up to him against the Grizzlies.

“He’s been playing a lot, and that should ease up a bit now,” Tatarnic said. “This weekend we’ll be able to play either one of our goalies.”

“Aidan will be available.”

Tatarnic’s crew is the top seed in the Mainland division and will face the fourth-seeded Coquitlam Express in a best-of-seven series that, on paper, looks like a colossal mismatch (see Jacob Bestebroer’s column to the right).

Tatarnic would never say so.

“You have to respect any team you face and anyone can beat anyone on any night,” the coach said diplomatically. “It doesn’t matter who you play, you have to play 60 minutes hard.”

Sure, but Coquitlam didn’t beat Tatarnic’s team in seven regular season meetings and must.

The Express need to top them four times in the next week and a half to move on.

“There might be some doubt over there if they can beat us, but that’s for them to worry about,” Tatarnic said. “We have to play a team that’s in our way of advancing and we’ll take it one shift, one period and one game at a time.”

“It’s a race to four and that’s our focus.”

The Express are the definition of a one line team.

Shut down Alex Kerfoot, Jackson Cressey and Austin McIlmurray and this series should be short.

“Their offence lies mostly with that line so you could look at it analytically and say we shut that line down and they’ll have a hard time scoring,” Tatarnic noted. “They get double shifted a lot, so we’ll make sure our guys are aware when they’re on the ice and make sure we’re sound defensively.”

See bchl.ca for more playoff info.

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