July 19th, 2024

Cubs return home on brink of elimination

By JAMES TUBB on March 9, 2024.


The Medicine Hat Cubs are fighting for their playoff lives this weekend.

The Cubs trail the Sylvan Lake Wranglers 2-0 in their best of five third round series after a 3-2 loss Thursday night on the road. Jacob Hazard and Caleb Garrecht scored for the Cubs and Tyler Wakelam made 27 saves. Three straight Wrangler goals to start the second period was all it took for the North division winning team to take the game and the commanding series lead.

Cubs head coach Randy Wong says they’ve made some mistakes that have cost them in the two one-goal games to open the series. They lost Game 1 in double overtime by a 2-1 count on Sunday. Wong says they didn’t generate enough on the power play Thursday and it cost them.

“We had a five-on-three, we had a four-minute power play one time in the game and we didn’t deliver,” Wong said. “So that goes on the power play guys where they have to be ready and have a little more intensity. It’s a different intensity than being on the penalty kill and you’re not playing with the puck. When you have the puck, there still has to be some degree of intensity of moving the puck with purpose.”

That intensity is one part of their game Wong says he needs to see an increase in come Game 3 Saturday at the Kinplex if they want to play in a potential Game 4 on Sunday.

“We have to make good with opportunities we get and when you get those opportunities, you have to make sure you’re making the right decision, whether it’s to move the puck quickly or take your time to handle it, make a good play to another teammate. Those are all things that have to happen fairly quickly in your mind and we didn’t make the right ones at times.”

Game 3 gets underway Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and if the Cubs win, Game 4 would be at 5:30 p.m., both at the Kinplex. Wong says there’s more pressure on their older players to deliver and lead by example. He’s liked the play of his younger players and the energy they’ve brought.

“This all falls back on the older guys and there’s some guys, this might be their last junior hockey game whether it’s due to just moving on to work or school, or graduating from the program, so now you’re down to do or die,” Wong said. “That’s not a comfortable feeling. So you have to make sure you bring everything to the table and empty the tank so to speak, to make sure that you don’t wander and start playing the blame game.”

He says the message heading into the do-or-die weekend is simple, “you don’t get to say, ‘tomorrow we’ll be better,’ you don’t get to say that now. You have to be better tomorrow or else it’s over.”

As the series returns to the Kinplex and in front of the hometown crowd, Wong says they need the support of their faithful and hopes they can build off that to come back in the series.

“When you’re playing on the road, you have to develop and find your own energy levels,” Wong said. “Typically you get it from a goal is the biggest way you get it. So, the longer the game goes on without you scoring, you don’t have that adrenaline going with the crowd in place and them cheering you on. It certainly helps with that, it fills the void until you get that goal. Then once you get that goal and you feel the energy in the building, you build momentum that way. So that’s going to be huge for us.”

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