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Thanks to a full team effort, Saginaw Spirit wins the Memorial Cup over Moose Jaw – The Hockey Writers – Other Leagues

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The 2024 CHL Memorial Cup began on May 24 with the host Ontario Hockey League (OHL) team Saginaw Spirit taking on the Western Hockey League (WHL) champion Moose Jaw Warriors. In a hard-fought game, the Spirit held off a late charge from the Warriors to claim a 5-4 victory.

All four lines roll to Saginaw

While the Spirit's roster features several highly talented players and NHL prospects, head coach Chris Lazary spread the talent across all four forward lines and let them run the gamut for the majority of the game. While players like Montreal Canadiens rookie Owen Beck, Michael Misa and Vancouver Canucks rookie Josh Bloom were the more well-known and “high-profile” players, Nic Sima seemed to stand out the most with his overall performance for the Spirit's forward group.

Sima was aligned with Misa and Minnesota Wild prospect Hunter Haight all night and was a force in all three zones of the ice. Offensively, he opened the scoring for the Memorial Cup with a tee shot by 2024 draft-eligible defenseman Zayne Parekh. But the things that don't show up on the scoresheet that Sima did had a big impact on the game. These included his relentlessness on the forecheck, his flying up the ice, his playmaking and his strong defense.

Zayne Parekh Saginaw Spirit
Zayne Parekh helped the Saginaw Spirit to an opening win in the 2024 Memorial Cup. (Photo by Natalie Shaver/OHL Images)

The Spirit's ability to break through all four offensive lines made for a long night for the Warriors defense and goaltender Jackson Unger.

Yager and Mateychuk lead a warrior rally

The Spirit built a four-goal lead with less than two minutes left in the second period, but that didn't stop the Warriors from coming back into the game with a vengeance. While the Spirit seemed to control the tempo for most of the game, Moose Jaw was able to take control for a few minutes at the end of the second period and gain momentum.

Related: Memorial Cup 2024: Players and teams to watch

The Warriors scored three goals in less than two minutes to end the second period, thanks largely to the play of Pittsburgh Penguins rookie Brayden Yager and WHL Defenseman of the Year Denton Mateychuk. Like his Saginaw counterpart Sima, Yager was relentless in the offensive zone with his forechecking and was ultimately rewarded with two goals in the final two minutes of the second period. Meanwhile, Mateychuk got on the scoresheet by sneaking into the game from the scoring and adding an assist before the end of the period.

However, in the final minutes of the third period, the Spirit were able to hold off a late push by the Warriors, although Matthew Savoie narrowed the score to one goal after a great cross pass from Yager.

Spirit's big guns keep Unger on his toes

The Spirit controlled the game for most of the time and were led by many players, including the aforementioned Sima. But some of the “big guys” on the team also stepped up in a big way. Whether it was Beck, Parekh, Alex Christopoulos or Matyas Sapovaliv, the Vegas Golden Knights' junior player, the big guys in the Spirits' lineup gave them a lot of help.

Because the Spirit played offensively, they kept Unger on his toes. Despite scoring the five goals against him, Unger kept the game within reach at times with some brilliant saves and proved why he was one of the best goalies in the WHL this season.

More game notes

  • Parekh was named Man of the Match after scoring a goal and providing two assists in the win.
  • In the loss, both Mateychuk and Yager scored three points each.
  • Spirit goaltender Andrew Oke played his first game since suffering an injury on April 13, stopping 22 of 26 shots fired at him.

What’s next for both teams?

Both teams are off for the rest of the weekend. The Spirit will next play on May 26, when they face the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) champions, the Drummondville Voltigeurs. The Warriors will not play again until May 27, when they face the OHL champions, the London Knights.

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