Last-second goal lifts Saginaw to Memorial Cup championship with 4-3 win over London

Last-second goal lifts Saginaw to Memorial Cup championship with 4-3 win over London

Josh Bloom scored off a rebound during a scramble in front of the net with 22 seconds left to give the host Saginaw Spirit their first Memorial Cup junior hockey title, 4-3 over the London Knights on Sunday night.

Saginaw is the fifth U.S. winner in the 104-year history of the Memorial Cup, following the Portland Winterhawks in 1983 and 1988 and the Spokane Chiefs in 1991 and 2008.

“I don’t think the moment’s really set in, It’s going to be one heck of a party tonight and I can’t wait to touch that trophy again,” Bloom said. “Saw the puck sitting there on the goal line, I would’ve dove in it if I had to. Such a special moment.”

Owen Beck scored twice in the first period and Joey Willis gave Saginaw a 3-0 lead in the second before Ontario Hockey League champion London rallied to tie it.

Andrew Oke made 10 saves for Saginaw, with the Spirit outshooting the 13-1 in the first period and 31-13 overall. Kasper Halttunen, Easton Cowan, Sam Dickinson scored for London and Michael Simpson made 27 saves.

The teams met for the 12th time this season, with the game the fifth all-OHL final in tournament history.

London Knights’ Easton Cowan (7) is knocked off his feet by Saginaw Spirit’s Owen Beck (62) during the Memorial Cup final on Sunday. (Duane Burleson/Canadian Press)

They split the four-game season series, London beat Saginaw in six games in the OHL’s Western Conference championship series, and topped the Spirit 4-2 on Wednesday night in the Memorial Cup round-robin finale. The Spirit then beat Moose Jaw 7-1 on Friday night in the semifinal to get another crack at London.

“This is the biggest moment at our level right here,” Saginaw coach Chris Lazary said. “And I tell you, you could tell when guys came in this morning, the look on their face, we were going to win this game. We give up 13 shots. Thirteen to the London Knights, that’s pretty impressive.”

“To me, us, London, two best teams probably in the Canadian Hockey League to be honest. They took an OHL championship off us and there was zero chance they were taking the Memorial Cup on our home ice, zero chance.”

Beck opened the scoring at 9:07 of the first and added a power-play goal with 45 seconds left in the period after London’s Landon Sim was given a major penalty and game misconduct for an elbow to defenseman Zayne Parekh’s head. Bloom assisted on both goals.

Willis made it 3-0 at 7:47 of the second period. Halttunen scored for London at 9:45 of the second, and Cowan cut it to 3-2 at 7:48 of the third and Dickinson tied it with 9:44 to go.

“Obviously, it’s not a good feeling,” Knights forward Jacob Julien said. “We had a slow start to the game and we found our way back and then it happens. It’s the game of hockey, game of inches, bounces happen all the time.”

Saginaw is the third host team to win in the last six tournaments, following Windsor in 2017 and Saint John in 2002. The Spirit are the first team to win in a Memorial Cup debut since Saint John in 2011.

Beck was selected the MVP of the tournament. He had four goals and an assist in five games. The Montreal Canadiens prospect was traded from Peterborough to Saginaw in January. Peterborough lost in the Memorial Cup semifinal to Seattle last season.

“It’s unbelievable,” Beck said. “To come so close last year, to be in this tournament twice, to see what it’s all about. Man, it’s unbelievable.”

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