Skip to content

Warriors' comeback falls just short in Memorial Cup opening loss to Saginaw

Warriors score three goals in 1:35 late in second after falling behind 4-0, go on to drop 5-4 decision in first ever Memorial Cup appearance.
Warriors defenceman Voytech Port in action against the Saginaw Spirit at the Memorial Cup on Friday night.

MOOSEJAWTODAY.COM -- The Moose Jaw Warriors nearly had another miracle comeback on their 2024 playoff ledger, but in the end, the host Saginaw Spirit would hang on for a win in the opening game of the Memorial Cup.

The Western Hockey League champions fell behind 4-0 in the first half of the game but came back with a three-goal surge late in the second before dropping a 5-4 decision in Saginaw.

The game was the first Memorial Cup contest in history for the Warriors, and playing in front of a strong host team and more than 7,000 fans, the nerves definitely showed.

The opening five minutes went about as expected, as the two teams battled through the early excitement of playing for a national championship.

Shortly after the period crossed that mark each team had a couple of chances, with Saginaw getting a few opportunities in the home plate area and Jackson Unger making a handful of big stops to keep it scoreless.

That included a chance for the Spirits’ Nic Sima at the top of the crease when a turnover behind the net saw the right winger get a shot off that Unger would make a pad save on.

Moments after that, the Warriors had a great chance of their own when a Jagger Firkus drop pass to Denton Mateychuk in the Saginaw zone led to a shot that Andrew Oke would make a nice save on.

The Warriors received their first power play of the tournament when OHL defenceman of the year Zayne Parekh was hit with a delay of game penalty for clearing the puck over the glass, but Saginaw would get the better chances.

Team Canada member Owen Beck nearly scored on a partial breakaway and Unger had to make a host of saves in close on the same play to keep things scoreless. Unger’s effort on the play would end up as the TSN Save of the Game.

Saginaw continued to carry the play as the period continued, with the Warriors held without a shot for almost 10 minutes and the Spirit leading 16-6 in that category with three minutes left in the first.

With 32.9 seconds left in the period they’d finally break through.
Parekh got off a shot from the point that Sima tipped at the top of the crease, and the Spirit had the first goal of the Memorial Cup and a 1-0 lead out of the first period.

A hooking penalty to Brayden Yager put Saginaw on their first power play and seconds after it expired, the Spirit caught a break for their second goal.

Owen Beck simply put a shot on net that deflected twice, including off Mateychuk in front, before finding the back of the net. The goal came with 2:13 gone in the period.

The Warriors were unable to generate any zone time as the period continued while Saginaw used their transition game and forecheck to generate continuous pressure, and they’d break through again. After winning a puck battle along the boards, Parekh would get himself open in the slot, and he’d take a pass from Matyas Sapovaliv before putting a shot top corner with 7:28 gone.

Saginaw kept coming, and increased their lead to 4-0 1:36 after Parakh’s goal. Jordan Donovan finished off a run of zone time in the Moose Jaw zone and put a shot in low glove side on Unger.

The Spirit were so dominant through the first half of the game that the Warriors were only able to manage their 10th shot on net with 8:12 to play in the second.

The Warriors began to get things going as the period progressed, though, and things suddenly turned their way in utterly stunning fashion late in the period.

Brayden Yager scored the first goal in Moose Jaw Warriors' Memorial Cup history with 1:45 to play in the frame, and it was thanks to a great play by Matthew Savoie. The Buffalo Sabres prospect stripped the puck from a Saginaw defenceman behind the net and sent a perfect pass to Yager at the side of the net, and his shot would sneak by Oke short side.

Only 37 seconds later, Mateycuk got on the board, manoeuvring into the high slot before putting a shot top shelf to make it a two-goal game. 

And 56 seconds after that marker, Yager struck again, this time taking advantage of a breakdown in the Spirit defence and taking a pass from Mateychuk to the side of the net before ripping a shot home.

Three goals in 1:35, and the Warriors were suddenly in a one-goal game.

Saginaw got one back immediately after play resumed in the third period, with a turnover behind the Warriors net leading to a complete defensive breakdown, and a tic-tac-toe passing play would lead to Josh Bloom finishing off with 1:52 gone.

The Warriors nearly scored two goals in a couple of minutes with 13 minutes to play, first when a Martin Rysavy wrap-around went right through the crease, and moments later when Firkus appeared to have scored, only for a review to correctly determine that Matthew Savoie was offside on the play.

The Warriors pulled Unger for the extra man with three minutes to play, and Savoie would score his first goal of the tournament on a on-timer feed to the right wing off a pass from Mateychuk.

Unger went to the bench again with 1:45 to play, and Firkus would hit the post in the final 15 seconds, but Saginaw would escape with the win.

Unger ended up facing 36 shots in the loss, Oke turned aside 22 shots for the win.

The Warriors are now off until Monday when they face the OHL champion London Knights, with puck drop at 5:30 p.m.

push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks