Vegas Golden Knights prospect Matyas Sapovaliv raised the highly sought-after Memorial Cup on Sunday, June 2 at Dow Event Center in Saginaw, Michigan. The Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) defied the odds and were named champions of the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) in storybook fashion, after scoring the go-ahead goal to defeat league foes, the London Knights, with 21 seconds to play in regulation to earn the 4-3 victory. The Spirit are just the third American club in CHL history to win a championship and the first in 16 years.

As hosts of the 2024 Memorial Cup, Saginaw was awarded an automatic bid to the tournament and was tasked to take on the champions of the three major junior hockey leagues in the London Knights of the OHL, the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), and the Moose Jaw Warriors of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Saginaw became the third Memorial Cup host to be crowned champions in the last 10 years.

The Memorial Cup is the most anticipated event on the junior hockey calendar and began on Friday, May 24 with Round Robin contests to determine seeding. The Spirit posted a 2-1 record during the round-robin to draw Moose Jaw in the semifinals whom Saginaw handedly defeated, 7-1. The championship game featured an OHL Western Conference rematch as the Spirit and Knights battled for CHL supremacy. Saginaw broke out to a 3-1 lead which it carried into the third period until London rallied, scoring back-to-back goals to make it 3-3. It looked but guaranteed that the contest would enter overtime until Saginaw’s Josh Bloom scored with just 21 seconds remaining in regulation to lead the club to victory.

Sapovaliv appeared in all five Memorial Cup games for the Spirit, tallying an assist and posting the second-most faceoff wins in the tournament with 53 on 104 attempts (50.1 FOW%). Sapovaliv recorded nine points (3G, 6A) in his team’s 17 OHL playoff games before Saginaw was defeated by London in the OHL Western Conference Final in six games. The 20-year-old center has spent all three seasons of his junior career in Saginaw, owning 170 points (64G, 106A) in 183 games and most recently finishing with 62 points (19G, 43A) in just 54 games this regular season. The Czech native was drafted in the second round (48th overall) in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft by Vegas. 

Sapovaliv joins six other members of the Golden Knights organization who won the Memorial Cup previously in their hockey careers:

1982-83: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

  • Bruno Campese (G)

1983-84: Ottawa 67’s (OHL)

  • Bruce Cassidy (D)

1990-91: Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

  • Tim Speltz (General manager)

2006-07: Vancouver Giants (WHL)

  • Craig Cunningham (F)

2007-08: Spokane Chiefs (WHL)

  • Tim Speltz (General manager)

2012-13: Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)

  • Dominique Ducharme (Head coach)

2013-2014: Edmonton Oil Kings (WHL)

  • Dysin Mayo (D) 

2023-24: Saginaw Spirit (OHL)

  • Matyas Sapovaliv (C)

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