Game five of the Memorial Cup kicked off with a must-win situation for the Hamilton Bulldogs. With their litany of penalties the game before, a lot was riding on their ability to stay out of the box and win in regulation against the Edmonton Oil Kings.
The tone was set as Hamilton’s Ryan Humphrey went over the boards into the Edmonton bench, less than two minutes in.
As Hamilton headed to the power play, Sebastian Cossa made a miraculous save, sprawling across the crease after losing his stick. Despite this, the Bulldogs quickly recaptured their momentum with an offensive-zone faceoff, and Avery Hayes scored from the goal line at 10:15 with an impressive wrap-around goal that solidified the desire the Bulldogs had to win.
Late in the first period, Marco Costantini made two incredible saves, keeping the score 1-0 for Hamilton. With a chance down at the other end for the Bulldogs, Cossa made his own save in turn, and a scrum broke out, once again sending Hamilton to the power play. Yet again, Hamilton tallied one with the man advantage. Ryan Winterton got a tip-in from the slot, giving his team the insurance they desperately needed.
Early into the second period, Nathan Staios was checked into the boards by Simon Kubicek, and the Bulldogs got a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct minor for taking exception to the hit. Staios left the bench, not to return, and the Bulldogs were called for interference shortly after successfully killing off their initial penalty.
With the number of shots growing evenly and a desperation surrounding both Hamilton and Edmonton, the second period saw both teams goalless.
In between periods, Arber Xhekaj was asked about how a teammate going down might motivate his team. He went on to say, ”We’re all brothers. We’re all family in our room.” He continued, saying, “One guy goes down, we like to win for them. We’re going to play our game here to get the win.”
Period three saw Hamilton on the power play, and the momentum swung in favour of the Oil Kings, whose Jalen Luypen tallied their first goal, short-handed. The goal was an exhibition of quick hands and a lazer-straight shot. The third period really was a goalie show; both teams’ impressive goaltending kept the score relatively neck and neck, even as the shot clock climbed higher into the 30s.
Late into the third period, Mason McTavish netted Hamilton’s third goal. The one-timer went right top-shelf, in a display of perfect accuracy.
Hamilton was comfortably nestled into their 3-1 lead. In a last-ditch effort, Edmonton pulled Cossa, and with 2:47 left in the third, Jake Neighbours brought the Oil Kings back within one.
Though their effort throughout the game, and doubly so in the last few minutes, was that of winners, the Oil Kings ultimately fell short, with Mason McTavish getting a second goal on the empty net, just as the clock wound down.
Despite their previous record, the Hamilton Bulldogs found a way to claw their way to the semi-finals with a drive that showed how determined they are. As the winner of the 2022 WHL Championships, the Oil Kings have plenty to be proud of this season. But Hamilton is on to the semi-finals, and they will continue to play for the Memorial Cup.