The BCHL Chilliwack Chiefs held their training camp Tuesday and Wednesday at Prospera Centre, putting returning players and prospects through the paces.
The roster of the junior A team has gone through a major makeover, with new head coach/general manager Jason Tatarnic putting his stamp on the team.
His first priority was to fix a leaky defence that caused the Chiefs to miss the playoffs last spring.
And that starts between the pipes.
Jason Tatarnic is a big believer in building from the net out.
One of his first offseason moves was the signing of goaltender Aidan Pelino, followed soon after by Mitchell Datz.
Both are 19 years old.
Both, Tatarnic believes, are capable of being solid (if not better) BCHL starters. But until the pucks start flying, no one knows whether they’ll be closer to Mitch Gillam or Spencer Tremblay in performance.
“I don’t think experience is a huge thing for us, but I think potential is,” Tatarnic said. “We look at a goaltender and try to see what he could be. Both of these guys have shown extreme potential to be solid goaltenders. Will it happen this year? I hope so.”
Pelino, a native of Oakville, ON, comes into the preseason as the nominal ‘starter.’
His play last season at Northwood School in Lake Placid, NY, put him on the NCAA radar and he had several junior A teams in pursuit.
“He’s a bigger goalie at six foot two,” Tatarnic said, when Pelino was signed in late April. “He’s calm and positionally sound — not a guy who jumps around all over the place.”
That’s exactly what Tatarnic likes in a goalie, a composed player who makes the saves he should and some of the saves he shouldn’t.
Datz is the same type of stopper, and could certainly wrest playing time from Pelino if he lives up to his resume.
The native of Kitchener, ON, led his high school team (Salisbury Academy in Connecticut) to the New England Prep Championship last year, going 23-1-3 with a .927 save percentage.
“I want both those guys to compete every day in practices and games and push each other, and they’ll sort out the playing time themselves,” Tatarnic said. “Goalies like to get in a groove, but as coaches we’re aware that there’s rest and recovery and you can burn a goalie out pretty quick. We have quite a few three-games-in-three-days weekends, and that’s why you get two solid goalies.”
While he expects Pelino and Datz to compete and push, he also wants them to develop a friendship and work as partners.
“It’s very important for goaltenders to have a good relationship. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and it causes problems in the dressing room and on the ice,” the coach said. “Their position is very unique because there’s only two of them, and it’s very healthy for them to be good teammates.”
Both netminders could face growing pains adapting to the faster pace of the BCHL.
Every coach knows four points lost in October can loom large in March.
No team in the 16 team BCHL surrendered more goals than Chilliwack in 2013-14 — 285 goals, or 4.91 per game.
“Oh believe me, I love collecting points early in the season, but it’s not a sprint,” Tatarnic said. “It is a long season and as long as you can see they’ll be able to get to the finish line, that’s the thing. If you can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, that becomes a concern. But I think the two that we have have the potential to be very good goalies.”