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Bloom's late winner leads Saginaw over London to win Memorial Cup


SAGINAW, Mich. — In the mind of Saginaw head coach Chris Lazary, there was no chance the Spirit were going to lose Sunday night.

Josh Bloom scored the game-winning goal with 21.7 seconds left to lift the host Spirit to their first Memorial Cup with a 4-3 victory over the London Knights. Sunday's final was the 12th time the two teams squared off this season.

The Knights and Spirit split their four regular-season meetings before matching up in the Ontario Hockey League Western Conference final, where London emerged victorious in six games before winning the OHL title.

Saginaw and London then played in the Memorial Cup's round-robin finale on Wednesday, with the Knights coming out on top 4-2 to earn a final berth. The Spirit thumped the Western Hockey League champion Moose Jaw Warriors 7-1 in Friday's semifinal to get another crack at London on Sunday.

"This is the biggest moment at our level right here," Lazary said. "And I tell you, you could tell when guys came in this morning, the look on their face, we were gonna 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," he added. "They took an OHL championship off us and there was zero chance they were taking the Memorial Cup on our home ice, zero chance."

Bloom tucked in a rebound after a scramble ensued in front of the net from a Jorian Donovan point shot and the home crowd at the Dow Event Center erupted.

"I don't think the moment's really set in, it's gonna 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," he added. "Such a special moment."

Saginaw becomes the eighth first-time participant to win the Memorial Cup since 1972 and the first since 2011. In addition, the Spirit became the third host team in the last six tournaments to win the title.

It's also the fifth time an American CHL team — and first time for an American OHL team — has won the Memorial Cup in its 104-year history. The Portland Winterhawks (1983, 1988) and the Spokane Chiefs (1991, 2008) were the others.

Owen Beck, with two goals, and Joey Willis also scored for Saginaw, which got 10 saves from Andrew Oke.

Beck was named MVP of the tournament with five points (four goals, one assist) in five games.

The Montreal Canadiens prospect was traded from Peterborough to Saginaw in January. It was the second straight year at the Memorial Cup for him, having been on the Peterborough team that lost in the semifinals 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.

"I'm speechless. To have done this with this team, a team that I've never been closer with. It's unbelievable. It's going down in history and nobody could take it away from us."

Kasper Halttunen, Easton Cowan and Sam Dickinson replied for London. Michael Simpson made 27 saves.

"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."

"We found each other like family. We were brothers, I think that's what made us push even harder, we didn't want to be apart from each other," Julien added when asked of the team's closeness and having a different group next season. "Made us play a little harder, play for each other, do whatever we gotta do to stay together."

Beck opened the scoring at 9:07 of the first period after firing a shot from the left faceoff circle following a scramble for the puck off his faceoff win.

London forward Landon Sim was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for an elbow to Zayne Parekh's face that left the star Spirit defenceman down on the ice for a couple minutes before getting up under his own power.

Beck added his second of the game on the power play with 44.3 seconds left in the first on a one-timer off a feed from Bloom 18 seconds into the man advantage.

Willis made it a 3-0 game at 7:47 of the second period splitting two Knights defenders and beating Simpson with a backhand shot.

Halttunen put London on the board at 9:45 of the frame, ripping a wrist shot that beat Oke blocker side from the left faceoff circle.

Cowan made it a one-goal game at 7:48 of the third period, beating Oke from the right faceoff circle.

Dickinson then knotted the contest at 10:16 to a raucous approval from the London faithful in the crowd.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2024.