Will Calverley (right) and his Chilliwack Chiefs will renew acquaintances with Brendan Butte’s Langley Rivermen early in 2018 as the team tackles a schedule full of Mainland division rivals. DARREN FRANCIS PHOTO

How much will Christmas break benefit Chilliwack Chiefs?

The struggling BCHL club gets a breather at the right time as they prepare for the stretch run.

Chilliwack Chiefs nation may be on the verge of panic following a junior A team that has underperformed relative to sky-high expectations, but the team’s head coach/general manager seems perfectly calm.

Ask Jason Tatarnic about the team’s 16-15-2-2 record at Christmas and he’ll give you five minutes on how good the Mainland division is, how deep the BCHL is and how much he believes in the team he’s assembled.

He also knows how drastically things can change at this time of year.

It’s not a myth that players are often noticeably improved coming out of the Christmas break, and it’s no accident that Coach T’s teams always look better in January than they do in December.

“I have no problem saying that we play a too many games in a short time-frame,” Tatarnic said, glancing up at the giant white-board that displays the 58 game slate. “We’ve played 35 games already. One week we play five games in nine days, and that happens quite a bit with our schedule.

“We usually try to plan a longer break for our guys because it’s a lot of hockey, especially for our new players.

“It gives them a chance to get home, rest and evaluate what’s been good and what’s been bad, and when they come back their body and their mind are in the right place.”

Tatarnic enjoys the break as much as his players, though he doesn’t get to completely unplug. He traveled to Ontario to visit family, and while he was there he took time to watch a couple potential future Chiefs in action.

“It’s good for coaches to get away and look back at the first couple months,” he explained. “I like to spend some time reviewing all of our wins and all of our losses, evaluating what worked well and why it worked well, and what didn’t work well.

Chilliwack won nine straight coming out of the break last year, going 12-1 from Dec. 28 through the end of January.

There’s been little to suggest this year’s edition is on the verge of a similar explosion, but it’s not due to a lack of talent.

Tatarnic’s assembled a roster that, on paper, looks like it should be able to compete with anyone.

He just has to figure out what buttons he needs to push to bring all of the individual pieces together as one cohesive unit.

Easy right?

“If we were fourth in our division but there was big separation between us and the teams above us then I’d be very concerned,” Tatarnic said. “But we’re nine points behind Langley and within striking distance of everyone, so I’m not too worried.

“If you look at the standings, it’s kind of the same feeling as last year where we’re in striking distance and if we put things together we are certainly capable of making a run at first place.”

POST CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE FULL OF FAMILIAR FOES

The Chilliwack Chiefs will have a chance to gain ground on division rivals, coming out of the Christmas break with five straight against Mainland foes.

The Chiefs host the Surrey Eagles (18-13-3-2) Friday night, 7 p.m. at Prospera Centre, followed by a road trip to Coquitlam Saturday. The Eagles return Jan. 6 followed by a trip to Langley (17-9-9-2) Jan. 7 and a home game vs Coquitlam (7-24-1-2) on Jan. 12.

Only nine of Chilliwack’s 23 remaining games are against out-of-division opponents.

See the full schedule online at bchl.ca

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