It’s not something a coach would ever admit, but would it be the worst thing if the second place Chilliwack Chiefs don’t catch the first place Wenatchee Wild by the end of the season?
Jason Tatarnic’s team would be spared some onerous travel.
Rather than travel hours and hours by bus to Prince George, they’d only have to zip up and down the freeway to face the Langley Rivermen.
But then they’d have to face one of the BCHL’s hottest teams.
Langley’s 11-2 since the calendar flipped to 2017 and seem like a team you’d want to avoid.
So which would you want?
Travel and a potentially easier foe?
No travel and a buzz-saw?
“I never sit here wishing I could play this team or that team,” Tatarnic said after practice Tuesday afternoon. “Whoever you play in our division, you’re facing a good team and Langley and Prince George present different challenges.”
“Langley has been playing really well and they’ve been scoring goals.”
“Bobby (Langley coach Henderson) thought they might struggle offensively, but the amount of goals they’ve scored this year indicates differently.”
If the playoffs started today, it would be Langley, which is locked in as the Mainland division’s third seed.
It’s not impossible for the Chiefs to catch the Wild, who are only five points up and face a much tougher schedule.
The Chiefs face four teams that are at or over .500 in their last seven games, but it’s not a murderer’s row of opponents.
Merritt Centennials, who are here Friday (7 p.m. start), barely qualify at 20-20-8-2.
The Spruce Kings, likewise, are right at that mark at 22-22-4-2 and it would be disappointing if Chilliwack lost to either of them.
The Rivermen (27-16-5-2) and Penticton Vees (34-12-2-1) are tough outs, but at least Chilliwack gets them at home. Chilliwack also has two favourable matchups against Surrey (16-32-3-0), one home and one away.
Not that Tatarnic would admit any of this, even talking up Wednesday night’s opponent.
“Coquitlam (10-41-1-2) in their rink is a tough place to play in,” he said, somehow managing to keep a straight face. “Merritt’s a good team and Surrey has beaten us once.”
Wenatchee has a legitimately tough sched that starts with a tough three game road trip through Vernon/Penticton/Trail this weekend.
They get the lowly Express once before facing Langley four straight times (two home/two away) to end the season.
“But our focus hasn’t really been about chasing Wenatchee so much as going into the playoffs doing things well and doing them consistently,” Tatarnic said. “Catching the Wild is definitely a carrot for the players and we tell them if they do what we’re supposed to do, there is a possibility.”
“If we do catch them and we’re fortunate enough to get through the first round, that gives us home ice advantage for the second round.”
“That’s always nice to have.”