June 24th, 2024

Cubs’ veterans embracing ‘Last Dance’ mentality

By JAMES TUBB on February 24, 2023.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Cubs forward Colby Friedrich celebrates his second period goal in their semifinals 6-5 Game 1 loss against the Cochrane Generals Tuesday at the Kinplex.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

The Medicine Hat Cubs’ oldest players recognize how much every game matters in the playoffs, as it could be their last in the HJHL.

The Cubs’ four 21-year-old overage players, captain Levi Schlosser, Cooper Hilworth, Colby Friedrich and Jacob Milne have embraced that this season is their last chance at reaching the top of the Heritage Junior Hockey League.

“Any game could be our last game and we’re all going to leave it all out there,” Friedrich said. “We have to give it our all and hopefully we’ll come out with a season to remember here.”

All four contributed in the Cubs’ game one 6-5 loss at the Kinplex against the Cochrane Generals. Hilworth had a goal and two assists while Schlosser and Friedrich added a goal and an assist each. They’ll be relied upon in game two tonight, back at the Kinplex starting at 8:15 p.m.

Head coach and general manager Randy Wong says he hopes they don’t have their last day of Cubs hockey for as long as possible.

“You always want to give those guys their last days of junior hockey because it can be over just like that,” Wong said. “A seven-game series can be over in four games and you don’t wish that upon those guys who don’t have next year to fall back on. Young guys can go, ‘We had a good year, we’ll do better next year.’ You always have that in your pocket. Those guys don’t.

“They have to go, ‘What do I do next? Is my hockey over, do I get on with life and work and do what the big boys do?’ You don’t want that to end and you want to ride that as long as you can and give them as much success as they can.”

Friedrich, a product of North Battleford, has donned the Cubs orange and black for two seasons and 59 games, putting up 49 goals and 116 points. In 10 playoff games last year he had seven goals and 13 points. Milne has been a Cub for two full years, but was on the team in the shutdown 2020-21 season. He has 39 goals and 69 points in 63 games.

That group of four were a big part of the lineup in the Cubs’ South finals loss last season against the Okotoks Bisons. Schlosser says that loss is something they’ve never forgotten and are looking to avenge in their last try.

“All four of us know and we’re definitely going a lot harder and making sure we’re hard on pucks and everything, knowing it could be our last game at any point,” Schlosser said. “So it’s just always playing hard.”

Schlosser, a Medicine Hat product like Milne, has been a Cub for five years but has only been able to suit up in three regular seasons due to COVID and now four playoffs runs. He played five games in the postseason at the age of 17 before joining the club full time.

Schlosser has 61 goals and 137 points in 110 career regular season games played. He’s chipped in five goals and 19 points in 26 playoff games across three seasons, entering this year’s run.

Hilworth was the offensive leader in the lineup this season, winning the league scoring title and has propelled himself to the franchise leader in his fifth and final year as a Cub. He has 101 goals and 204 points in 143 games, finishing his Cubs regular season career in third place of the franchise’s all-time points list, trailing first-place Kyle Funk by 28 points. Hilworth is also second in all-time goals and third in all-time assists for Medicine Hat.

He does hold the all-time games played honours, passing Mackenzie Fritzler who played for the Junior B club for 141 games from 2016-2020.

Besides the scoring titles and honours, Hilworth says he’s enjoyed playing alongside those three.

“It’s been amazing,” Hilworth said. “We all became really close friends, we do a lot of stuff out of the rink together. It’s just a great leadership group and a great group of guys to end my career with with the Cubs.”

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