The Medicine Hat Cubs season came to a close Saturday night.
A three-goal second period by the Bisons put the Cubs in a deficit they could not come back from as they dropped Game 6 by a 4-1 score to the Okotoks Bisons, who took the HJHL South Finals four games to two.
When asked about his thoughts on the loss, Cubs head coach and general manager Randy Wong said the game is won and loss in inches.
“You look at the first period and we had a couple scoring chances. You score and you build your own adrenaline, keep it going and maybe the outcome is different,” Wong said. “You don’t score, they come back and get a couple and now you think you’re a little tired…we just ran out of gas but had we scored a couple goals early it’s maybe different.”
The Cubs were looking to push the series to a Game 7 after falling behind 3-0 in the series against an Okotoks team that they had not beat all regular season. Medicine Hat mounted a come back taking Game’s 4 and 5, winning 5-3 and 7-5. This season was the first time since 2012-13 the Cubs reached the South Finals.
But it was the Bisons who put themselves ahead early and shut down the Cubs offence.
Medicine Hat’s lone goal came in the first period when Colby Friedrich scored a power play marker to tie the game up 6:11 after the Bisons opened the scoring. Captain Levi Schlosser had the lone assist on the Cubs final goal of the year, Friedrich’s team leading seventh goal of the playoffs.
After being outshot 6-5 in the first period by the Cubs, Okotoks poured it on in the second period, notching their three goals that would cement the win, including a goal with six seconds left in the frame to further grow their momentum heading into the third. The Bisons led the second in shots 17-6.
Wong said in a seven game playoff series, the best team usually comes out and said the Bisons had more depth than they did.
“But I think we showed well and we can’t hang our heads,” Wong said. “We have to look at next year if we want to be where they are this year. We know the steps we have to take, the personnel we need, the drive that you need to win championships.”
Medicine Hat tried to make a comeback in the third, outshooting the Bisons 10-8 but they could not find the back of the net as Okotoks net minder Dylan Fries shut the door with 21 saves to secure the series win for the visitors. Okotoks will take on the North Division’s Cochrane Generals for the HJHL championship.
Across the ice from Fries, Cubs net minder Dawsen Savage made 26 saves. The Cubs finish their season with a playoff record of 6-4 as they head into the summer looking to build off of the positives throughout the season and the disappointing end.
The Bisons were presented with the South Division trophy by HJHL President Ian Hall at centre ice of the Hockey Hounds arena before celebrating heading into their dressing room directly across from the Cubs.
Wong said to his team that it wasn’t a bad thing that they got to listen to the Bisons “hoot and holler” in their own barn.
“That has to burn you and you will come back with a little more drive next year to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Wong said.
Game 6 was played at the Hockey Hounds arena as the Kinplex 1 rink was closed off to the public Friday afternoon due to an ammonia leak that caused no injuries but made the rink unusable. After winning Game 5 late Friday night the Cubs had to quick find a rink and settled on the Hounds arena.
Wong said it was disappointing they couldn’t pack the Kinplex for the game but said he was happy with the Cubs fan turnout throughout the season.
“We really expected we would have 700-800 people at that game tonight just with the big win we had last night,” Wong said. “It’s disappointing but the Hounds is a character building, we got a couple hundred fans in here and I think it was loud and a different atmosphere.
“But certainly, we can’t thank the fans enough for coming out and showing their support this year.”