June 18th, 2024

Cowan’s winner lifts Knights past Spirit to earn Memorial Cup final berth

By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on May 29, 2024.

London Knights goalie Michael Simpson (31) stops a shot by Saginaw Spirit's Alex Christopoulos (48) during second period Memorial Cup hockey action in Saginaw, Mich., Wednesday, May 29, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Duane Burleson

SAGINAW, Mich. – Easton Cowan scored the go-ahead goal late in the third period to help the London Knights book their ticket to Sunday’s Memorial Cup final with a 4-2 victory over the Saginaw Spirit on Wednesday night.

Cowan took a feed from Sam O’Reilly and beat Spirit goaltender Andrew Oke on the glove side with 1:25 left in regulation time. Cowan iced the win with an empty-netter with 22 seconds left.

The Spirit will play Western Hockey League champion Moose Jaw in Friday’s semifinal. The Warriors topped the Drummondville Voltigeurs 5-3 on Tuesday to eliminate the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League champions.

Kasper Halttunen and Denver Barkey each had a goal and an assist for London. Michael Simpson made 26 saves.

Alex Christopoulos and Joey Willis scored for host Saginaw. Oke stopped 31 shots.

Both teams entered the game at 2-0 in round-robin play and met each other for the first time since the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference final. The Knights won the best-of-seven series in six games before going on to win the OHL title earlier this month.

Christopoulos opened the scoring 8:50 into the first period after tipping a shot from Josh Bloom. However, a double-minor penalty on Zayne Parekh for high-sticking would cost Saginaw its early lead.

Halttunen knotted the contest on the power play 14:23 into the period. He took a drop pass from Cowan, beat a defender with a toe-drag move and fired in a wrist shot.

The Spirit tested Simpson, outshooting the Knights 8-3 through the first 6:40 of the second period, including a Christopoulos backhand in front on a hard drive to the net.

But it was Barkey who broke the tie at 10:40 of the middle frame. Halttunen made a hard drive with a defender on him and dished a centring pass from a tight angle to Barkey who tapped it in.

Max McCue almost made it 3-1 at 12:31 after a defensive mishap left him all alone for a breakaway, but he was stonewalled by Oke.

Willis, however, tied the game with 5:40 remaining. He whipped a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Simpson on the blocker side.

Just over a minute into the third period, McCue found himself on another breakaway but missed the net. Oke stopped a McCue wrist shot near the midway point of the frame after a feed from O’Reilly.

Bloom fired a shot on a partial break but Simpson made a pad save with just under six minutes left in the third.

The Spirit and Knights split their four meetings in the regular season.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2024.

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