Showdown: Spirit v. Knights

April 25, 2024

A featured attraction on the Ontario Hockey League playoff scene has the London Knights and Saginaw Spirit set to face off in a Western Conference showdown between two teams that both won 50 games during the regular season.

Get ready for London and Saginaw, the only OHL teams to win 50 games and put up more than 100 points during the 2023-2024 regular season. The Knights have won eight straight games through the first two rounds of the playoffs, sweeping both the Flint Firebirds and Kitchener Rangers. As for the Spirit, it began with a four game dusting of the Owen Sound Attack before needing Game 7 to oust the Soo Greyhounds in the second round.

The Knights-Spirit series opens with Games 1 and 2 in London on Friday night and Sunday afternoon of this week. For the record, the two teams split four games during the regular season.

Saginaw may not have home ice advantage. But the Spirit has the security of knowing that, win or lose, it has its ticket punched to next month’s Memorial Cup championship tournament as the host entry.

High scoring London forward Easton Cowan — a top National Hockey League prospect of the Toronto Maple Leafs — said the Knights are ready for Saginaw and to begin the best of seven series at home.

“We know they’re hosting the Memorial Cup so there’s a little bit of extra jam,” Cowan relayed to Postmedia. “We want to beat those guys. We played against them four times and split, but haven’t faced them for a while. We know they’ll be coming hot and we will be, too. We’re happy the first two will be in front of our fans.”

Meanwhile, Saginaw head coach Chris Lazary, who superbly directed the Spirit to its Game 7 victory over the Greyhounds, noted that his club has been looking forward to meeting the Knights in the playoffs.

“It’s no secret we wanted to play London at some point,” Lazary said. “We wanted to play best on best and try to win. We look forward to the challenge. It should be tough.”

Calem Mangone

ICE CHIPS: Not only did zoom zoom forward Calem Mangone score the winning goal for Saginaw in the third period of the seventh and deciding game of the Western Conference semi finals against his hometown Greyhounds, the Spirit speedster also did so in Game 5 to break what was a 2-2 series deadlock … Saginaw expects to have star defenseman Zayne Parekh back for Game 1 or 2 of the London series. The sensational defender missed Game 7 of the Soo series with an injury … Same holds true for Saginaw goalie Andrew Oke, who missed most of the series against the Soo with an injury. But with Oke on the shelf, fellow 2004 birth year goalie Nolan Lalonde was superb in relief of Oke. “Both guys are almost ready to go,” Saginaw head coach Chris Lazary said of Parekh and Oke.

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