April 23rd, 2024

Cubs to face North-winning Wranglers

By JAMES TUBB on March 2, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB Medicine Hat Cubs forward Josh Drefs carries the puck into the offensive end in the third period of the Cubs 4-2 Game 3 win Wednesday over the Coaldale Copperheads to sweep their second round series 3-0.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

The Medicine Hat Cubs’ finals aspirations will have to run through the North division.

The Cubs’ third-round opponent in the Heritage Junior Hockey League playoffs was finalized Thursday – the North division-winning Sylvan lake Wranglers.

Game 1 of the best-of-five series is set for Sunday at Sylvan Lake, with Game 2 on Wednesday, also on the road for the Cubs. Their first home game of the series is Saturday, Mar. 9 for Game 3. They’ll host Game 4 if needed on Sunday. A decisive Game 5 would be March 15 at Sylvan Lake.

The Cubs were 1-0-1 against the Wranglers this season, with a 5-2 win on Oct. 15 and a 3-2 overtime loss at the Kinplex on Nov. 26. Head coach Randy Wong says it should be a close series between two similar teams.

“We’ve had some success against them the last couple years, both times we’ve been there we’ve got some wins so it’s nice to know we can go there and have had success,” Wong said. “It’s a good matchup, both teams are built the same way, we have some speed, we have some guys who can score and the goaltending is pretty solid on both sides.”

The Wranglers swept their second-round series against the Airdrie Thunder with a 7-2 win Thursday night. Medicine Hat was the first team to punch a ticket to the playoffs with their 5-2 win Wednesday over the Coaldale Copperheads, taking the series 3-0.

Sylvan Lake won the North division with a record of 33-3-2 and 68 points, finishing well ahead of the second-place Mountainview Colts who had 40 points. This is the first season with the HJHL’s new playoff format, with South and North teams meeting in the semifinals for the first time.

Wong says the new playoff format doesn’t matter for them, he says they’ll just continue focusing on themselves and their process.

“That’s all we’re really caring about, we’re sticking with that theme because it’s been working and it keeps you grounded,” Wong said. “You don’t have to worry about anything else, you just have to worry about is your game good enough to beat the opponent you’re playing against.

“That’s kind of a simple way of thinking about it, are the things you’re doing, are they successful hockey plays in any game we play? That’s where our focus has been.”

The Northern division finished the year with weaker records than the South, with five of the six teams in the Cubs’ South division finishing ahead of the Colts.

The Cubs enter the series as the standings underdogs but that’s only the outside view.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re playing,” captain Callen Prosofsky said after Wednesday’s win. “We just have to play our game, get back down to the basics and do what we were doing in this series, and it should take us.”

Across the semifinals, the Okotoks Bisons await their opponent after moving through the second round with a 3-1 series win over the High River Flyers. They’re awaiting the decision between the Rocky Rams and Mountainview Colts, with the Rams leading the series 2-1 entering play late Friday. If needed, that series’ Game 5 would be Saturday.

Cubs organizing fan bus for Game 1

The Cubs are organizing a fan bus for Game 1 on Sunday at Sylvan Lake. For $65 per person, transportation will be covered to and from the game. The price does not include the game ticket, but according to the Cubs social media, the Wranglers will discount tickets at the door for those on the bus.

Anyone interested is asked to email Colette Prosofsky at cprosofsky@gmail.com ASAP as they need 40 confirmed riders to make the trip happen.

Wong says they’ve enjoyed the fan presence at the Kinplex and look forward to the idea of their fans on the road as well.

“The players feel energy from the fans, whether they’re in Coaldale or coming to Sylvan and certainly the full house we saw Wednesday was outstanding,” Wong said. “To be able to take that a bit on the road and if people are going to show their support to us, guys will be excited they’ve made the trip. We take what we can get with with fan support and hope that people are entertained and knowing the guys are really excited about all that is a huge bonus.”

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