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Spirit rout Warriors, will face Knights in Memorial Cup final


SAGINAW, Mich. — Ethan Hay didn't feel like there was a moment the Saginaw Spirit took over the game Friday. But he pointed to a mentality and a sense of unfinished business.

Hay had two goals and two assists in leading the host Spirit to a 7-1 semifinal win over the Moose Jaw Warriors to punch their ticket into Sunday's Memorial Cup final.

Saginaw will meet the Ontario Hockey League champion London Knights, who advanced to the final after going 3-0 in the round robin. The Spirit fell 4-2 to the Knights in the round-robin finale on Wednesday.

"I wouldn't say a particular moment," Hay said. "We decided that we were gonna take the game over at the start, it was a mentality going through the room.

"We have unfinished business and we want that chip."

Saginaw and London finished as the best two teams in the OHL and split their four regular-season meetings. The Spirit then fell 4-2 to the Knights in the OHL Western Conference final series.

Saginaw looks to be the first team to win as a first-time participant in the Memorial Cup since the Saint John Sea Dogs in 2011 and the eighth since 1972. The Spirit also aim to be the third host team in the last six tournaments to win the Memorial Cup with Windsor (2017) and Saint John (2022).

"It's pretty special and all I can really say is, third time's the charm," Hay said of the opportunity to make history against London.

Rodwin Dionicio had a goal and three assists, while Lincoln Moore and Sebastien Gervais each had a goal and two assists for Saginaw. Braden Haché and Owen Beck scored the other two goals and Andrew Oke made 23 saves.

Saginaw head coach Chris Lazary was quick to credit his fourth line of Hay, Gervais and Moore.

"Our fourth line hasn't played much all tournament," Lazary said." "For those guys to go out and put the team on (their) back and again, a leader like Haché pulling those guys aside and telling them all week, 'you're going to do something big in this tournament for this group.'

"And tonight they were a huge, huge reason why we won. Just super proud of them and our group in total. It's a lot of pressure today."

Jagger Firkus scored and Jackson Unger stopped 30 shots for Moose Jaw, which won its first-ever Western Hockey League title to get into the Memorial Cup.

"Tough one, tough way to go out," Warriors head coach Mark O'Leary said. "I think Saginaw played a heck of a hockey game. They forechecked hard and we really couldn't get anything going.

"This doesn't change one thing about the way that I think of them," O'Leary added of his message to the team. "We're sad that we didn't win our last game of the year. … At the same time, when the dust settles here, you can be upset that we lost here tonight but be upset that you don't get to do it again with the group of guys that you did."

Forward Atley Calvert was watery-eyed as he faced reporters following the loss.

"This one hurts right now but you look back at the year in a couple days here, you'll have a different feeling obviously," he said. "Growing up with the group and going through pains and struggles and to end like this is tough but couldn't ask for a better group."

Hay opened the scoring just 3:03 into the first period, when he fired in a one-timer from the left faceoff circle off a feed from Gervais.

Lucas Brenton knotted the score at 4:18, but the goal was overturned after the Spirit were successful in challenging for goaltender interference.

Firkus got Moose Jaw on the board at 7:08. He kept the puck on a 2-on-1 and flipped a backhand shot that trickled in off Oke.

Haché restored Saginaw's lead 1:53 into the frame, wiring in a wrist shot from above the left faceoff cirlce on a feed from Michael Misa.

Beck made it a two-goal game at 3:47 after Josh Bloom sent him a perfect cross-ice backhand pass and he sent in a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle.

Moore got in on the fun at 9:05. Hay found Moore with a cross-ice pass and Moore blasted home the one-timer from a tight angle on the left faceoff circle.

Hay added his second of the game at 11:22, capitalizing on a backhand cross-ice pass from Moore.

Gervais made it a five-goal game at 14:24, when he buried a rebound with traffic in front.

Dionicio padded the lead 1:10 into the third period, getting a takeaway in Moose Jaw's zone and roofing a wrister past Unger.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2024.