Saginaw Spirit Cap Cinderella Season Winning the Memorial Cup!

    icon Jun 04, 2024
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Nous sommes les champions. 


That is French for ‘We are the Champions.’


The Saginaw Spirit, playing in its first-ever Memorial Cup Tournament presented by Dow, took home the coveted championship trophy be disposing of the pesky London Knights 4-3 Sunday night in front of a sold out, frenzied crowd at the Dow Event Center’s Wendler Arena.


It looked as if the game was headed to overtime as the game was knotted at 3-3. However, in the waning seconds the Spirit kept forechecking like crazy and after a scramble in front of the London net, Saginaw’s Josh Bloom punched in the game-winning goal with just :21.7 remaining in the period. Moments later the red light was illuminated which sent the home fans into hysteria. 


In the 104-year history of the prestigious Memorial Cup tourney, it marked just the fifth time that there were two Ontario Hockey League teams vying for the Canadian Hockey League championship. There’s a reason why the Memorial Cup is often called the hardest trophy to win in all sports. The journey began over eight months ago with 60 teams competing to become the 2024 CHL champions.


Besides getting their names etched into the Memorial Cup, the Spirit - who had its best regular season in franchise history – also recorded a handful of notable achievements:


It’s the Spirit’s first-ever Memorial Cup title in franchise history, occurring in what is their first-ever appearance at a Memorial Cup.


The Spirit became just the second team since 1972 to both host a Memorial Cup and win the title in what was their first-ever appearance at the CHL’s championship event. Ironically, London was the first (2005).


The Spirit became just the third American club to win the Memorial Cup and the first to do so in 16 years, as both the Portland Winterhawks (1983 and 1998) and Spokane Chiefs (1991 and 2008) have each achieved the feat twice with Spokane being the last to do it in 2008.


 Saginaw became just the second American host squad of the Memorial Cup to win the event, following the 1983 Portland Winterhawks.


The Saginaw icers became just the third Memorial Cup host to lift the trophy in the last 10 years (Saint John Sea Dogs – 2022, Windsor – 2017).


The Spirit are the eighth club since 1972 to win the Memorial Cup in their first appearance at the event. 


 Saginaw became the ninth Memorial Cup host to win CHL’s championship event without having won their league title. 


The Spirit became the first Ontario Hockey League squad to host the Memorial Cup trophy since the Winsor Spitfires achieved the feat in 2017.


The Saginaw Spirit was confident entering the title tilt despite entering the contest with a 4-7 record against London this season. The local contingent is the only team that beat the Knights during the ’24 playoffs.


In these parts the Knights are about as popular as a Cottonwood tree near your backyard pool because of their abrasive style of hockey. That comes directly from their head coach, Dale Hunter, who was equally abrasive during his 19-year National Hockey League career with the Quebec Nordiques, Washington Capitals, and Colorado Avalanche. His jersey #32 was retired by the Capitals following his retirement. Under Hunter’s direction, London has previously won two Memorial Cup championships.


However, it was that same abrasive play that led to a pivotal play early in the contest. With Saginaw nursing a 1-0 lead thanks to an Owen Beck slapshot, London’s Landon Sim was ejected from the game due to a check to the head of Saginaw defenseman Zayne Parekh. He was awarded a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his dirty hit. The Spirit scored once on that five-minute power play, giving them a 2-0 lead.


Saginaw head coach Chris Lazary’s game plan was to keep the puck in the opposition’s end. The Spirit, who skated incredibly hard all game long, had a 20-1 shot advantage midway through the second stanza as Saginaw had more goals (3) than London had shots (1).


But London showed why they were the OHL champs as they clawed their way back into the game. After Joey Willis put the Spirit up 3-0 with a nifty backhander, London scored less than two minutes later on a shot by Kasper Halttunen. The Knights scored at the 7:48 mark of the third period on a goal by Easton Cowan. London knotted the game at 3-all when Max McCue tossed the puck to Sam Dickinson who beat Saginaw goalie Andrew Oke.


With time winding down, it looked as if the game was headed to overtime. But Saginaw was having none of that as Jorian Donovan fired a shot to the net and Bloom chipped in the game-winner. Saginaw outshot London 31-13 as Oke stopped 10 of 13 shots. London netminder Michael Simpson, who was stellar all tournament long, faced 31 shots, stopping 27.


London entered the game unbeaten (3-0) in the round-robin tournament. The Knights slipped past the home icers earlier in the week, 4-2. They scored with under two minutes in the contest to deflate the large crowd and then tacked on an empty-netter. Saginaw made its way to the championship game by blasting Moose Jaw 7-1 in Friday’s semifinal game.


Post Game Honors


Saginaw’s Owen Beck was awarded the Stafford Smythe Memorial Trophy as the tournament MVP. Beck, a Montreal Canadian prospect, tallied five points (four goals, one assist) in five games. Spirit General Manager Dave Drinkill acquired Beck from Peterborough in January. It was the second straight year participating in the Memorial Cup for Beck having been on the Peterborough team that lost in the semifinals to Seattle last season. Other awardees included:


Hap Emms Memorial Trophy (Outstanding Goaltender) – Michael Simpson, London Knights


George Parsons Trophy (Sportsmanship) – Denton Mateychuk, Moose Jaw Warriors


Ed Chynoweth Trophy (Leading Scorer) – Easton Cowan, London Knights


2024 Memorial Cup All-Star Team


G – Michael Simpson, London Knights

D – Denton Mateychuk, Moose Jaw Warriors

D – Rodwin Dionicio, Saginaw Spirit

F – Owen Beck, Saginaw Spirit

F – Brayden Yager, Moose Jaw Warriors

F – Kasper Halttunen, London Knights



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