Epic Memorial Cup final set: London Knights vs. ‘run-and-gun’ rival

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SAGINAW, Mich. – The Knights will face Saginaw once more for all the marbles.

The Memorial Cup host Spirit advanced to the tournament final by blasting Moose Jaw 7-1 in the semifinal before 4,978 Friday at the Dow Event Center. The Warriors surrendered five second-period goals and some overzealous Saginaw fans started a ‘We want London’ chant in the dying minutes of the third.

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The London-Saginaw all-Ontario Hockey League final will mark the 12th and final meeting this season between the bitter rivals. Unbeaten London, who topped the Spirit 4-2 to close out the round-robin Wednesday, has won seven out of 11 times so far.

“We love it,” Spirit coach Chris Lazary said. “We want to play them again. They have our number. It’s no secret we haven’t been able to solve that. We have a lot of the guys in the room that solve Rubik’s Cubes but we can’t beat the London Knights.

“We look forward to the challenge and (to) find a way.”

Both teams know each other better than any others in major junior hockey at this point.

The Knights finished first overall in the regular season with Saginaw right behind them. Then, London won the OHL’s Western Conference final in six games before buzzing through Oshawa in the league championship series to book their ticket here.

Parekh
Saginaw Spirit defenceman Zayne Parekh fires the puck during their Memorial Cup game against the Drummondville Voltigeurs in Saginaw, Michigan on May 26, 2024. (Eric Young/CHL)

A London-Saginaw final Sunday means an Ontario Hockey League club will win a Cup title for the first time since Windsor in 2017. The host Spitfires beat the league champion Erie Otters 4-3 for the crown seven years ago.

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“We’re not a run-and-gun team and the team we will be playing is,” London defenceman Oliver Bonk said. “We have to lock it down, play our game and limit scoring chances. Do that, we’ll have a good chance to win.”

The Knights hold all the accolades so far. The biggest one will be up for grabs Sunday.

“We don’t have anything to show for (the season yet) and we’re still looking for our first trophy,” Spirit defenceman Zayne Parekh said. “We’ve seen them a lot.”

Those past stumbles won’t feel as bad if they’re the last ones standing. They have to beat London to make it happen.

rpyette@postmedia.com

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