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'Devastated': Spirit defeat Knights on last minute goal to capture Memorial Cup

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It was heartbreaking defeat for the London Knights.

“You're devastated,” says Knights assistant coach Dylan Hunter after the defeat in the Memorial Cup Final.

The Saginaw Spirit’s Josh Bloom broke a 3-3 tie with 21.7 seconds left in regulation.

The 4-3 gives the franchise its first ever Memorial Cup championship.

“These are the guys you went to war with,” said Hunter. “You played 90 games with and the game's the game, but it's the relationships. Some of these guys are never going to play with each other again.”

Knights forward Jacob Julien graciously spoke to the London media after the loss.

“This is not a good feeling,” said the Knights forward. “We had a slow start to the game and, we kind of found our way back and then, you know, it happens. It’s not the end of the world. We would have liked to win, but, you know, it's hockey.”

London, the top team in the Canadian Hockey League, looked lifeless for nearly 48 minutes as the host Spirit controlled the play.

Trailing 3-1 entering the third period, the Knights would not go away.

Easton Cowan and Sam Dickinson scored 2:28 apart to bring the game level at three goals apiece.

London Knights fans take in the Memorial Cup game in Saginaw, MI on June 2, 2024. (Source: Eric Young/CHL)“I give them credit and we always had fight in us,” said Hunter. “They went right to the bitter end. They've been resilient. On the bench, we were saying ‘We’ve faced worse odds before and then we battled back.’ These guys never had quit and it went right down to the last 20 seconds but that’s how these tournaments go.”

London looked to be controlling the play for the final 10 minutes of the third, but they could not clear the zone on a dump out, and Bloom converted.

The puck dribbled over the line as Max McCue tried to lay in the crease and keep it off the line behind Knights goaltender Michael Simpson.

The goal went in and the majority of the 5,373 fans at the Dow Event Center erupted.

“I saw that puck cross the line kind of blanked out,” said Bloom. “I skated to centre, and I kind of knew that that was it. It was a special moment.”

It was the 12th meeting of the year between the two teams, and although London won seven of the first 11, the Spirit won the one that mattered.

“It’s crazy surreal and it's going to take a while to soak in,” said Will Bishop, Spirit defenceman from London, Ont. who just beat his hometown team.

“Those guys [Knights] beat us in the [Ontario Hockey League] semis there. It's just crazy to get some revenge in the Memmer [Memorial Cup].”

London did not look like its usual self, as the team managed just one shot on goal against the hosts in the first period, and five more in the second as the Spirit jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard and a 24-6 advantage on the shot clock after two periods.

A turning point came late in the first period, when Knights forward Landon Sim was assessed a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a check to the head.

The Spirit’s Owen Beck scored his second goal of the night on the ensuing man-advantage.

Joey Willis scored the other goal for the Spirit.

The London Knights and Saginaw Spirit shake hands after Saginaw beat London 4-3 to win the Memorial Cup on June 2, 2024. (Source: Eric Young/CHL)The Knights finally broke the shutout 9:45 into the second period, on just their second shot of the game when Kasper Halttunen scored his fourth goal in four games for London.

London’s 13 shots on goal is the lowest record total in the last 25 years of the Memorial Cup final.

“They [Saginaw] were playing really well,” said Hunter. “They weren't taking as many risks as they are used to. We couldn't really get much pressure on them in the forecheck as they were coming around over the top on us really well, keeping in the zone. Face-offs were not where they should have been. They had a good game plan and they did it.”

The victory and hosting this tournament will be a huge boost for the Saginaw franchise.

Spirit President and Governor Craig Goslin said they have already sold 800 more season tickets for next season, after introducing the Canadian Hockey League to tens of thousands of people in the region.

“I’m so proud of this community,” said Spirit head coach Chris Lazary. “I’ve said a lot of times we've been trying to get our respect and let everybody in the league see how good we are for the franchise and I think we are on display, it’s a pretty cool moment.”

“I’ve been saying since I was 16 that Saginaw is a hockey town,” said Bloom. “My last game with this jersey on it’s a pretty special way to end it.”

The Knights can hold their head up high after winning the J. Ross Robertson Cup as Ontario Hockey League Champions.

However, they know they let one get away, and now have come to the realization that this group will never be together again.

“We were brothers,” said Julien. “I think that's what made us push even harder. We didn't want to be apart from each other. It kind of, kind of made us play a little harder, play for each other, do whatever we got to do to stay together.” 

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