May 26th, 2024

Cubs process over results mindset carries them into playoffs with fresh feel

By JAMES TUBB on February 22, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Cubs forward Kyle Woolridge settles the puck on his stick in the third period of a Cubs' 5-2 win over the Coaldale Copperheads on Jan. 28 at the Kinplex.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

The Medicine Hat Cubs’ approach to the 2023-24 season mirrors the quote famously attributed to American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

After back-to-back years of falling short in the South finals, the Cubs came into this season with a mindset of focusing more on the process than going deep in the playoffs.

They still have the same championship aspirations however, and will make the first step toward them when their best-of-five second-round series opens Saturday against the Coaldale Copperheads. But to get here required a change of focus that head coach Randy Wong says went from concern about who they might be playing to concern with their own game first.

“This year was about the process, follow the process, get better as a team, mature, figure out what works, what doesn’t work and take that into playoffs, making sure we’re ready to play,” Wong said. “Regardless of who we played, we’re at least ready to play the game. So far it’s been a good model to follow, it’s been a good recipe. We’re anxious to get going and see what it looks like in the playoffs.”

The Cubs hit the postseason having clinched home ice in their second-round series with a record of 24-9-5, finishing three points ahead of the Copperheads, having won the season series 3-1 against Coaldale. Getting home ice advantage was their goal from the start and gives them the ability to start at the Kinplex and play in front of the crowd, which captain Callen Prosofsky says makes a big difference on the ice.

“The Kinplex is a ton of fun here, so to start off at home is exciting,” Prosofsky said. “When the crowds is in on it, it helps us to have our moments.”

It took until the final weekend of the season before they clinched second in the South, later than Wong would have liked, but he says it gave them weeks of playoff-like experience before the real dance begins.

Forward Kyle Woolridge, who led the Cubs in scoring with 34 goals and 53 points in 38 games, likes the matchup.

“We have some stronger guys and I think we can do very good,” Woolridge said. “We can go far in playoffs if everyone comes ready to play, so it’s going to be a good playoffs.”

Looking at their matchup, Wong says they like their sparring partner and how the two teams stack up.

“We’ve got some good team speed, our goaltending is solid and we can score some goals and they can, too,” Wong said. “It comes down to character of the team, and I just I like our character team. I don’t know their character, I can’t comment on it. So I just know that I like what we have.”

The commitment to character was a priority right from training camp for Wong, who said at the time his team would be chosen on character first and statistics second.

“Character is what you bring to the table, that’s what you bring individually in your upbringing and how you handle yourselves,” Wong said. “That’s from mom and dad and your home, your upbringing.

“We just felt if we had a full room of good character guys, guys who wanted to play for each other, that would hopefully make a difference in playoffs.”

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