April 24th, 2024

Cubs put a bow on 50th season

By JAMES TUBB on March 22, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO Medicine Hat Cubs assistant coach Matt Knutson, head coach Randy Wong and assistant coach Johnny Stehr pose with forward Josh Drefs after receiving the scholastic award Wednesday night at the Junior B club's award banquet.

jtubb@medicinehatnews.com@ReporterTubb

The Medicine Hat Cubs celebrated the special efforts in an even more special season with their year-end awards Wednesday night.

The Cubs gathered one final time for the 2023-24 HJHL season, their 50th as a franchise, to recognize players’ efforts and celebrate their successes throughout the year. The night also allowed them to thank volunteers and off-ice staff for their efforts throughout the season.

Gathering’s like the awards banquet are what makes the program right, head coach and general manager Randy Wong says.

“When we have a gathering like this, the turnout has been awesome, you have to give thanks to where thanks is due,” Wong said. “So we always start off with the board being the No. 1, there’s a lot of countless hours they put in. They make things work behind the scenes. Then it just continues with my coaching staff and the training staff and you get into the players and the commitment they put in this year.

“We always thank the fans and the parents for their support, filling the building and let their guys play. All in all, it was a great year.”

The Cubs kicked off their 50th season with an alumni game ahead of their home opener on Oct. 7, featuring 250 alumni players with 50 playing in the game. It set the tone for the season and provided a moment Wong says he’ll never forget.

“What an outstanding day it was to have all that support from the alumni come,” Wong said. “The success of the year, I look at what a young team we have. If you’re going to win a championship, typically you’re going to roll over half your team. So we only lose one guy from our roster, really that played all year. So maybe we were a little bit too young to go all the way to the end, but I think we got good experience this year. We have lots of returning guys coming back and I think we’re hungry to try and finish it off next year.”

Forward Kyle Woolridge was named Cubs MVP after leading the team in scoring with 34 goals and 53 points in 38 games.

“You really gotta give credit to your teammates,” Woolridge said about his awards. “It’s a team game, you can’t do it by yourself. No matter how many points you get yourself, you just have to look around at the guys around you and how much they helped you.”

Goaltender Tyler Wakelam was named the Cubs playoff MVP and rookie of the year. Wakelam started the season as a third-string in net, putting together a 20-11-6 record with a 2.36 GAA and .916 save percentage in the regular season. He started all seven of the Cubs’ playoff games, with a 4-3 record, 2.67 GAA and .921 save percentage.

Wakelam says there were a number of his teammates who could have took home the same awards he did and reflects positively on his first HJHL season.

“Starting the season, I wasn’t even thinking about playoffs, I was just taking it one day at a time and hoping to get in the lineup and get a start,” Wakelam said. “But once I did, I just kind of ran with it. Being named the playoff starter, I was surprised, but welcomed (it) for sure. A lot of the guys deserve it as well, I go back to (Caleb) Garrecht and the two overtime winners, Game 1 and 2 against Coaldale, that was huge. Wooly had come with some big goals, he had like five or six goals in playoffs. So he totally deserves those honours, too. It was certainly a team effort in playoffs to get to where we were.”

The Cubs also honoured their lone full-time graduate, with Darnell Glasgo receiving his jersey, as is tradition since Wong took over three seasons ago. Glasgo spoke to the room after receiving his jersey and shared his admiration for his time as a Cub.

“It takes a lot of people to get anyone where they are at this point,” Glasgo said. “Volunteers, coaches, parents, so obviously a big thank-you to everybody that’s kind of been involved, you know, the last couple of years. Thank you very much.”

The next step for Wong is fulfilling his yearly promise to his wife to take a vacation and a step back from hockey for a little while now that the season is over. A trip to Cuba is on the docket this spring with copious rounds of pickleball to follow.

As for next season, the Cubs look to get over the third-round hurdle that has stopped them the last three seasons. Captain Callan Prosofsky, who took home the top defensive forward, community service and most dedicated award, says they’ll take a lot of lessons from this season.

“We got to learn that losing sucks and it’s no fun,” Prosofsky said. “We have to increase our want to win a little bit and just do whatever it takes.”

Wong says they’ve already sent out invites and received interstate’s for their spring recruiting camp, and plan to return over 90 per cent of the roster for training camp in the fall. He says that ability to recruit and return that many players signals a change of the perception of the Cubs in the city and the attitude around the HJHL.

“The identity of the club in the city has been really positive and the fact that players want to continue to play year after year, we already have a lot of young guys that have heard about the program and so they’re making this a viable option,” Wong said. “Many years ago, I don’t know if this was option No. 1. It was always there if they needed it, and I think now players are saying, ‘Hey, it’s a good program and it’s close to home, we can support it and play.’ So we’re thankful that we built it and the success of the program is hopefully still to come.”

The Cubs award winners were:

MVP: Kyle Woolridge

Playoff MVP:

Tyler Wakelam

Unsung hero:

Darnell Glasgo

Leading scorer:

Kyle Woolridge

Most goals:

Kyle Woolridge

Top defensive forward: Callen Prosofsky

Community service award:

Jamal Shaw

Best defenceman: Jamal Shaw

Sportsmanship:

Caleb Garrecht

Most dedicated:

Callen Prosofsky

Most improved:

Tash Armstrong

Rookie of the year: Tyler Wakelam

Outstanding scholastic achievement: Josh Drefs

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