May 26th, 2024

Cubs lead Round 2 in dramatic fashion

By JAMES TUBB on February 27, 2024.

Medicine Hat Cubs forward Caleb Garrecht celebrates his double-overtime goal in the Cubs' 4-3 Game 2 victory at Coaldale over the Copperheads.--NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB

The start of the Medicine Hat Cubs’ HJHL playoff run has not been for the faint of hearts.

The Cubs are up 2-0 in their second-round, best-of-five series against the Coaldale Copperheads on the back of two different dramatic contests.

On Saturday, they put together a two-goal comeback to take Game 1 5-4 in overtime and on Sunday at Coaldale, held on through 72 minutes of action for a 4-3 double overtime win for the commanding series lead.

Cubs forward Caleb Garrecht scored both overtime winners, crediting his line mates Kyle Woolridge and Owen Wagner. The trio has a combined 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in the first two games, Woolridge had a hat trick Saturday, with the remaining Cubs tallying eight points. Garrecht says there is a team belief of overcoming anything and he is looking for it to continue as they strive to close out the series.

“Our team can fight through adversity when we need it most and our team together, we never give up,” Garrecht said. “We just have to work hard. We can never give up, no matter if we’re winning or losing, we have to fight to the end.”

While they haven’t been the prettiest of wins for the Cubs, falling behind two goals in the first period Saturday before giving up a lead late in the third. Then on Sunday they led 3-2 after 40 minutes and let Coaldale get back into the game in the second half of the third. Tyler Wakelam has started both games, making 22 stops Saturday and 36 on Sunday.

Head coach Randy Wong says the dramatics and finding the ways to win are just part of playoff hockey.

“With playoff hockey, you just don’t know what you’re going to get each night,” Wong said. “You make sure that you find a way, it doesn’t have to be pretty, playoff wins they just come one at a time. That’s been a focus from the start, worry about today and get that job done and it’s been a good focus. So a good two results to start the series, it gives us a chance to finish up at home on Wednesday.”

The Cubs host Game 3 of the series at the Kinplex on Wednesday, with puck drop at 8:30 p.m. If needed, Game 4 would return to Coaldale on Thursday, and should the Copperheads win two straight, Game 5 would be Saturday night at the Kinplex.

With a couple days of rest and a chance to take in a practice Tuesday ahead of the potential series clincher, Wong’s hoping they can get other lines producing so they aren’t relying solely on Garrecht, Woolridge and Wagner.

“We’d like to get some more production out of some other guys, when you live or die by one line it’s tricky, you put yourself in trouble if you don’t get some some help,” Wong said. “We’ll regroup and hopefully some guys get some energy for Wednesday.”

In the rest of the HJHL playoffs, the High River Flyers lead the Okotoks Bisons 1-0 in their series after a 4-1 win Saturday. Game 2 was late Monday night, with Game 3 tonight at Okotoks.

In the Northern division, the Sylvan Lake Wranglers lead the Airdrie Thunder 1-0 with a 6-1 win Saturday, Game 2 is tonight. The Rocky Rams are up two games on the Mountainview Colts and, like the Cubs, have a chance to close the series Wednesday.

With the ability to close out a series at the hands of the Cubs, their opponents in the Copperheads have nothing to lose with each remaining game of the series. When it comes to facing an opponent with nothing to lose and their season on the line, Wong says they’ll approach it how they have all season, with a focus and trust in the process.

“Let’s worry about us, that’s what we’re going to continue to do,” Wong said. “We expect them to come hard, this is playoff hockey, they’re a good team and we just have to make sure we’re prepared, doing our thing and make sure our execution is there. We had lots of opportunities actually to get other goals in the first place, so we just have to bare down a little bit more and not give them anything.”

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