MYHockey News

Memorial Cup Brings Canada's Best to Michigan for the First Time

Updated June 3 at 10:00 a.m. EDT

By Scott Lowe – 

Believe it or not, the last big event of the 2023-24 North American hockey season has now come and gone. 

After we made it all the way through the USA Hockey National Championships, the Esso and TELUS Cup Canadian U18 National Club Championships, the Centennial Cup Canadian Jr. A National Championship, the North American Hockey League Robertson Cup Playoffs and the United States Hockey League Clark Cup Playoffs, we were left with one last huge event that over the years has become must-see TV for hockey fans all over the continent.

This year was no different.

May 24 the puck dropped on the much-anticipated Memorial Cup as three CHL Major Junior champions and the host Saginaw Spirit began their quest for the coveted trophy. 

“We are thrilled to bring the Memorial Cup to the state of Michigan for the first time in the event’s history,” CHL president Dan MacKenzie said in making the host-city announcement in March 2023. “The Spirit and city of Saginaw submitted a remarkable bid, and we have no doubt that they will do an outstanding job of hosting our CHL championship.”

Saginaw did not disappint - on or off the ice. 

While the OHL’s Spirit never had earned a trip to compete for the Cup since joining the league in 2002, the city has seized this opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the CHL that it is a supportive junior-hockey community. Meanwhile, the hosts opened the tournament with a pair of victories and earned a spot in the semifinals before rolling into the championship game with a 7-1 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors in front of nearly 5,000 fans. 

Then, to close their first-ever Memorial Cup appearance, the Spirit sprinted to a 3-0 lead against their OHL-rival London Knights in the finals only to have London rally to tie the game at 3 in the third period. But Josh Bloom scored the championship-winning goal with 22 seconds remaining to give the hosts the Cup.

What a week of hockey! The Memorial Cup never disappoints. 

Joining the host Spirit in Michigan were Canadian Hockey League champions from the OHL (London Knights), the Western Hockey League (Moose Jaw Warriors) and the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League (Drummondville Voltigeurs). These four teams plaed eight games between May 24 and June 2 to determine the best Major Junior club in Canada.

The May 24 opening matchup between Saginaw and Moose Jaw at DOW Event Center in Saginaw ended in favor of the hosts, 5-4, as the Spirit earned their first-ever Memorial Cup win. London shut out Drummondville the following day at 4 p.m. in the tournament's second game. All Memorial Cup games were shown live on NHL Network in the United States as well as TSN and RDS in Canada.

 CLICK HERE for the full Memorial Cup schedule and all the results.

As with other Canadian national-championship tournaments, the participation of a host team always presents an interesting storyline. Saginaw is the first Michigan city to host the Memorial Cup in the tournament’s 104-year history.

“It’s phenomenal for the community, and the city of Saginaw itself to be able to host a tournament like this,” Saginaw General Manager Dave Drinkell told The Daily Faceoff. “I grew up in Ontario…so I grew up my whole life following junior hockey. With the U.S. teams in the OHL, the market’s growing and it’s huge for our community. People are really embracing it.”

In order for Saginaw to host, it was necessary to renovate the DOW Event Center, which opened in 1972, and bring it up to event standards. An additional locker room to fit a fourth team was needed in addition to improved lighting, additional VIP suites and other general improvements to the building. The upgrades were made at an estimated cost of nearly $9 million, demonstrating the team and community’s commitment to junior hockey and the Memorial Cup.

Saginaw’s tenure as the host city got off to an auspicious start, beginning with Thursday’s parade and ceremony welcoming the Memorial Cup to Saginaw. There also was a Fanfest area and a Hockey Hall of Fame exhibit at Heritage Theater, concerts, ball hockey and a food-truck rally.

If Saginaw hockey fans weren’t aware of how big of an event the Memorial Cup is, the activities and excitement the event generated in the days leading up to opening puck drop surely have provided the evidence. But the best news for them was the performance of the hometown club. 

Although on paper the Spirit weren't considered a favorite to win the championship going into the tourney, the team had proven that it is strong and deep enough to make a deep tournament run and contend. Saginaw finished second overall in the OHL standings and lost to London in the league’s Western Conference Finals, four games to two. The Spirit won their first two tournament games and were tied with the Knights with less than two minutes remaining before falling, 4-2, to land in the semifinals. 

Those playoff losses to Saginaw were the Knights’ only two setbacks of the entire OHL postseason as they posted a 16-2 record en route to capturing the J. Ross Robertson Cup. Prior to being eliminated, the Spirit knocked out the Soo Greyhounds in seven games after sweeping the Owen Sound Attack.

Saginaw finished the regular season with 102 standings points, just two behind London. The Spirit boasted a top 2024 NHL Draft prospect in Zayne Parekh, who ranked fifth in the league with 63 assists to go along with 33 goals. He added 11 points in 13 playoff games. Spirit players Owen Beck (Montreal), Hunter Haight (Minnesota), Jorian Donovan (Ottawa) and Matyas Sapovaliv (Vegas) are NHL draft picks, while Michael Misa projects as a top pick in 2025.

Saginaw goaltender Andrew Oke was the top performer in goal during the OHL Playoffs, posting a 1.83 goals-against average and .938 save percentage to lead all league netminders.

Perhaps the best news for supporters of the home side was that host clubs have a history of performing well in the tournament. Hosts had won the trophy 11 times since they were added to the field in 1983, with seven of those championships coming in the past 25 years.Make that 12 times overall and eight in the last 26 years. 

The second interesting storyline of this year’s Memorial Cup was the first-ever appearance by the Moose Jaw Warriors, who also advanced to the semifinals. 

Moose Jaw captured its first ED Chynoweth Cup as the WHL champion by posting a 16-4 playoff record, including a four-game sweep of the Portland Winterhawks in the finals. The Warriors needed seven games to get past the Saskatoon Blades in the Eastern Conference Finals after falling behind, three games to two.

Moose Jaw concluded the regular season fifth overall in the WHL standings with a 44-21-3 overall record and 91 points before making its run to the Chynoweth Cup. Center Jagger Firkus led the team and league in scoring with 126 points.

Frikus is a Seattle Kraken draft pick, joining Brayden Yager (Pittsburgh), Matt Savoie (Buffalo) and Denton Mateychuk (Columbus) as the team’s NHL draftees.

“It’s exciting,” Mateychuk told reporters following Moose Jaw’s pre-tournament practice. “We’re going to have a great challenge playing against the host team. We know it’s going to be a good atmosphere. We have to be excited and ready to go every time we put a leg over the boards. At the end of the day, it’s a hockey game. We’ve played 1,000 games, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

London steamrolled the rest of the competition in the OHL Playoffs to earn a spot in the Memorial Cup. The Knights ran up a 16-2 postseason record in capturing the J. Ross Robertson Cup. After knocking off Saginaw in the Western Conference Finals, London swept Oshawa in four games to win its fifth OHL title and earn a sixth shot at the Memorial Cup since 2005. The team has won the trophy twice.

The Knights were led by Denver Barkey, who ranked fifth in the OHL with 102 points and third with 67 assists. Easton Cowan was seventh in regular-season scoring with 96 points but led all playoff scorers with 34 points on 10 goals and 24 assists in 18 games.

Cowan is a Toronto draft pick, while Barkey was selected by Philadelphia. Other drafted London players include Kasper Halttunen (San Jose) and Oliver Bonk (Philadelphia).

“We didn’t start the season very well, but as the season progressed we got better,” London head coach and longtime NHL-veteran Dale Hunter said at the coaches’ press conference. “Every team that I’ve come here with, you have to be peaking at the right time. All four teams that are here, that’s why they’re here. They’re peaking at the right time, and they’re good teams. It’s going to be a battle that way, just like every time we’ve been here.”

Drummondville, which is appearing in its fourth Memorial Cup, won the Gilles-Courteau Trophy after sweeping Baie-Comeau in the QMJHL Finals to cap off a 16-3 postseason run. The Voltigeurs still have yet to win the trophy.

Drummondville finished first in the the QMJHL’s Central Division with 102 standings point, the second-best total in the league. They posted a 48-20 record, with six of the losses coming in overtime.

No Drummondville players ranked among the league’s top-16 scorers, but Ethan Gauthier and Sam Oliver tied for 17th with 71 points apiece while defenseman Vsevolod Komarov and Justin Côté ranked 22nd and 23rd with 69 and 67 points, respectively. Vsevolod led all QMJOH defensemen in scoring, and goalie Riley Mercer finished among the top 10 in goals-against average and save percentage.

Gauthier was drafted by Tampa Bay, while Komarov was selected by Buffalo. Maveric Lamoreaux (Phoenix) is the team’s other NHL draft pick, and Peter Repcik is a top 2024 prospect.


2024 Memorial Cup Final Standings

London Knights - 3-0-0, 6 pts

Saginaw Spirit - 2-1-0, 4 pts

Moose Jaw Warriors - 1-2-0, 2 pts

Drummondville Voltigeurs - 0-3-0, 0 pts


2024 Memorial Cup Schedule & Results

May 24 at 7:30 p.m. EDT – Saginaw 5, Moose Jaw 4

Nic Sima, Owen Beck, Zayne Parekh, Jorian Donovan and Josh Bloom scored as Saginaw earned the franchise's first-ever Memorial Cup victory. Andrew Oke made 22 saves to earn the win in goal over Jackson Unger, who stopped 31 pucks. Brayden Yager scored twice for the Warriors as the two teams' NHL draft picks dominated the scoresheet. 


May 25 at 4:00 p.m. EDT – London 4, Drummondville 0

Michael Simpson made 31 saves as the OHL's London Knights blanked the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL 4-0 in the first game of the 2024 Memorial Cup for both teams. Ruslan Gazizov scored twice for the winners, with Oliver Bonk and Kasper Halttunen also tallying. Simpson's shutout was the first by an OHL netminder in the Memorial Cup since 2011. The Knights led, 2-0, after the opening 20 minutes and locked down the win over with a strong defensive effort over the final two frames. 


May 26 at 7:30 p.m. EDT – Saginaw 4, Drummondville 3

The hosts improved to 2-0, rallying from a 3-2 deficit with a pair of third-period goals in front of more than 4,600 approving home fans. Drummondville got goals from Luke Woodworth and Peter Repcik to take a 2-0 lead, but Alex Christopoulos and Hunter Haight responded for Saginaw to even the scoe at 2. Justin Côté tilted the ice back in Drummondville's favor heading into the final 20 minutes, but Nic Sima tied it and Haight won it with his second of the game on the power play. Andrew Oke stopped 24 shots to earn the win in goal over Louis-Félix Charrios (31 saves). 


May 27 at 7:30 p.m. EDT – London 5, Moose Jaw 4

London scored three-straight goals in the second period to take control and then held on as Ethan Semeniuk and Martin Rysavy scored in the second and third frames to pull the Warriors within one. Sam O'Reilly, Landon Sim and Kasper Halttunen scored during the deciding second-period run, and winning netminder Michael Simpson made 26 saves. Seneniuk scored twice for Moose Jaw, while Easton Cowan and Denver Barkey each dished out a pair of assists for the victors, who improved to 2-0. Ruslan Gazizov and Sam Dickinson scored the other Knight goals. 


May 28 at 7:30 p.m. EDT – Moose Jaw 5, Drummondville 3

Moose Jaw got third-period goals from Aiden Ziprick and Brayden Yager after Drummondville had stormed back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the game on Alexis Gendron's tally 3:13 into the final frame. Ziprick scored the short-handed game-wiing goal with just 1:34 left in regulation, and Yager provided the instruance into an empty net with 10 seconds remaining. With the victory, the Warriors improved to 1-2-0 and advanced to the semifinals to face the loser of the London-Saginaw game. Drummondville ended the tournament winless as its season came to an end. Vojtech Port, Jagger Firkus and Denton Mateychuk staked Moose Jaw to the 3-0 lead in the first 33 minutes of the game before the Voltigeurs got goals from Justin Côté and Peter Repcik less than a minute apart to cut the margin to 3-2 entering the third period. Yager and Mateychuk finished with a goal and two assists for the winners, while Moose Jaw goalie Jackson Unger was outstanding with 49 saves as his team was outshot, 26-6, in the final 20 minutes. 


May 29 at 7:30 p.m. EDT – London 4, Saginaw 2

Easton Cowan was a one-man wrecking crew, scoring twice in the game's final 1:25 to break a 2-all tie and lift the Knights into the championship game. Cowan finished the game with three points as London improved to 3-0 while dropping the hosts to 2-1. Alex Christopoulos opened the scoring and gave Saginaw a 1-0 lead 8:50 into the game, but Kasper Halttunen and Denver Barkley answered to give the Knights the lead. Joey Willis tied it for the Spirit with 5:40 left in the middle frame, setting up the dramatic finish. Michael Simpson stopped 28 shots to earn the win in goal. Saginaw advanced to the semifinals May 31 to face Moose Jaw.


May 31 Semifinals at 7:30 p.m. EDT – Saginaw 7, Moose Jaw 1

The hosts blew apart a 1-1 game with five second-period goals to roll into the championship game in front of a thrilled crowd of nearly 5,000. Ethan Hay led the onslaught with two goals and two assists, with Rodwin Dioncio adding 1-3-4 and Sebastien Gervais and Lincoln Moore each contriuting 1-2-3. Andrew Oke stopped 23 shots to earn the win in goal. Owen Beck, and Braden Haché also scored for the Spirit. 


June 2 Championship at 7:30 p.m. EDT – Saginaw 4, London 3

The roller-coaster ride for the players and more than 5,300 fans inside the Dow Event Center was real. When Joey Willis scored at 7:47 of the second period, Saginaw led, 3-0, and appeared to be cruising toward the championship. But Kasper Halttunen, Easton Cowan and Sam Dickinson scored in a 21-minute span overlapping the second and third periods to tie the game with 9:44 remaining in regulation. That's how it remained until Josh Bloom poked home a loose puck during a furious goal-mouth scramble with 22 seconds reamaining to give the hosts the Memorial Cup. Winning goalie Andrew Oke made 10 saves. Bloom finished with a goal and two assists. 

CLICK HERE for championship game video highlights

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