By RYAN MCCRACKEN on October 21, 2020.
With the start of the Heritage Junior Hockey League season finally in sight, the Medicine Hat Cubs have a few decisions to make.
After adding returning veterans Dawson Crawford, Fletcher Aleman and Chandler Aleman, Medicine Hat’s roster sits at 27 and will need to be trimmed by two in order to keep a cohort of 50 with the Copperheads when they meet in Coaldale to open the season on Oct. 31.
“We’ve got to slim it down a little bit,” said Cubs head coach and general manager Randy Wong. “Our team took a bolster for the good when we added Fletcher Aleman and Desmond Crawford. Those are older guys, bigger bodies, that add a presence back there, so certainly that changed our dynamic of the back end. We had a lot of younger guys slated to go in there, but that will change what our roster will look like going forward.”
While Chandler Aleman hasn’t joined the team yet, the 20-year-old Brooks product is coming off a 27-goal, 47-point season with the Cubs and will provide a much-needed boost up front for the upcoming series-based schedule.
“He’s going to add another piece to the puzzle as far as our top end, our top-six forward unit,” said Wong. “He’s hopefully going to start soon.”
Wong added he’s also balancing a decision between the pipes, as the team is currently sporting three netminders in returners Dawsen Savage and Logan Leroux, and newcomer Peyton Lobe. While two goaltenders is typically the ideal number, having a third could prove invaluable given new cohort restrictions.
“Due to the affiliation rules and not really having any backup to get extra bodies when you need some, you’re kind of stuck with possibly carrying three goalies for the year,” said Wong. “(Lobe) played really well on Saturday. He was a little shaky in his first start, but that was to be expected, and then really he battled hard in the third for us in Coaldale to get the win.”
Saturday’s 6-4 victory in Coaldale – albeit exhibition – was Wong’s first since joining the Cubs in the summer. The former Medicine Hat Hounds U18 coach says it’s good to get back in the swing of coaching – but with a mask on and new protocols in place, it certainly wasn’t the same.
“It’s a different beast when you’ve got the mask on and there’s not as many fans in the building. You’re trying to keep your distance and not get too, too vocal with the mask,” said Wong. “It was hard. It’s hard to breathe in those masks and it’s hard to let your voice be known under there. It was a bit of a calmer version of me, I guess, just because of the nature of things. But it was good to be back behind the bench again, and you start to get more familiar with the league and the guys playing.”