Written by Cami Kepke/WHL.ca

Saginaw, Mich.—Moose Jaw struck first, but the London Knights’ explosive attack overwhelmed the WHL Champions in Monday night action at the 2024 Memorial Cup presented by Dow.

The OHL-winning squad’s three-goal second period was the difference-maker in a 5-4 victory for London.

“When we talk about a good start, it’s getting to our game in a hurry and playing with that energy, the enthusiasm and structure without the puck and I thought we did that,” Warriors Head Coach Mark O’Leary said. “Individually, I thought we had some guys that really stepped up tonight and had great games. I just thought that there were some opportunities throughout the game early on where we didn’t cash in.

These moments, these decisions in the game can come back and haunt you. It’s just a lesson to the group that on a stage like this, you know, those kinds of things don’t change, you have to be ready for that moment, with or without the puck, could be the biggest moment of the game.”

Moose Jaw is now 0-2 at the tournament and faces a must-win game against the winless Drummondville Voltigeurs, the QMJHL Champions.

Things got off to a promising start after Captain Denton Mateychuk opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game.

The Columbus Blue Jackets prospect received a drop pass from Atley Calvert in the high slot and ripped a shot high slot for his second tally of the tournament.

Midway through the period, Jacob Julien would steal a loose puck behind the Moose Jaw net to dish to a wide-open Ruslan Gazizov to level the score.

London took its first lead of the night as 2024 NHL Draft-eligible Sam Dickinson lasered a shot through traffic and past Jackson Unger to take a 2-1 advantage into intermission.

The Warriors’ depth players went to work in the second, with Ethan Semeniuk netting a pair to keep his team’s hopes alive.

Aiden Ziprick took a long shot on Michael Simpson to create a rebound, which Semeniuk quickly deposited in the back of the net to tie the game again.

Another draft prospect, Sam O’Reilly, dazzled with one of the trickiest goals of the tournament by weaving around a defender and roofing a puck far side from an impossible angle.

Landon Sim would further stunt any Moose Jaw momentum with a powerful wrister on a two-on-one as a Warriors powerplay petered out.

San Jose Sharks prospect Kasper Halttunen capped off a three-goal second period for London with a one-time shot from the high slot.

Semeniuk the Warriors some life with a bizarre goal off a shot from centre ice.

The 6-foot, 185-pound forward muscled forward after the draw and simply put the puck on net after receiving a pass approaching the blue line.

With Unger pulled for the extra attacker, Columbus Blue Jackets prospect Martin Rysavy hacked away at the puck in the crease until it squeaked across the goal line to bring the Warriors within one.

Seattle Kraken prospect Jagger Firkus earned his second assist of the tournament on the play.

Moose Jaw was unable to muster the tying goal, falling to London by a final score of 5-4.

The Warriors were also unable to convert on any of their four powerplay opportunities.

“Our powerplay can win us games throughout the regular season and playoffs,” Firkus said post-game. “I don’t think it was great tonight. Obviously, we created looks, but at the same time, we need to get them in the back of the net. Special teams is what hurt us as well tonight, giving up a short-handed one and not scoring on a power play was the difference.”

Moose Jaw needs a victory against the Drummondville Voltigeurs (0-2) on Tuesday night to earn a berth in the Memorial Cup Semifinal against London (2-0) or host Saginaw Spirit (2-0).

“That’s what we just talked about in the dressing room, it’s quarterfinals tomorrow,” O’Leary added. “That’s a pretty good spot to be in. I mean, 0-2 is no fun. Winning is way more fun. Everybody knows that. But the way this tournament works, you’re in a situation where in one game, you’re in the semi-finals, and at any tournament that you go into- whether it’s Memorial Cup or the World Juniors- if you told me you had a chance to win a quarterfinal game. I’ll take that.”

The Warriors and Voltigeurs will battle at 5:30 p.m. MST on May 28 at the Dow Event Center.

Pre game show begins at 5:10 p.m. on Country 100 with the Voice of the Warriors James Gallo.

All Memorial Cup Games will be broadcast on TSN 1/5, RDS, NHL Network (USA only) and CHL TV.