Canadiens prospect Owen Beck looks to close historic season on top

“To be in this tournament two years in a row is pretty special,” says Beck of the Saginaw Spirit, who was with Peterborough last year.

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Owen Beck has a second chance at glory and is determined to finish his career on top.

Beck and the host Saginaw Spirit look to make more history when the Memorial Cup begins Friday and runs through June 2.

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It is Saginaw’s first appearance in the tournament, but the second in a row for Beck. He was with a Peterborough team that lost to Seattle in the semifinal of the 2023 tournament.

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“It’s exciting,” Beck said. “Last year’s tournament was a lot of fun, obviously it was a little different than we were last year as (Ontario Hockey League) champions in Peterborough. But yeah, being in this tournament two years in a row is pretty special. “It is the most important tournament in youth hockey and one of the most difficult trophies to win.”

“This is a special group,” he added. “I think this group has a great chance to win. … It would mean a lot to finish my youth career with this group that (became) my brothers and be able to capture that trophy that I haven’t been able to win yet.”

Beck was traded from the Petes to the Spirit in January and finished the season with 81 points (34 goals, 47 assists) in 57 games. The Canadiens’ 2022 second-round pick added another 14 points (four goals, 10 assists) in 17 postseason games, as Saginaw was eliminated in six games by the eventual OHL champion London Knights.

As one of two players on the team to have competed in a Memorial Cup before, along with defenseman Jorian Donovan, Beck wants his team to understand the task at hand.

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“Having gone through the last year and not being successful, you learn a lot from those losses being so close,” he said. “Coming into this year, obviously for the guys who haven’t been here much, it’s like I said, it’s exciting. There are many things happening.

“It’s easy to get lost in all the hype, anticipation, excitement and crazy atmosphere that will be around Saginaw next week. We really have to stay focused.”

Western Hockey League champion Moose Jaw Warriors and Quebec Maritimes Junior Hockey League champion Drummondville Voltigeurs round out the four-team tournament.

For the first time in Canadian Hockey League history, all three champions swept their respective league finals.

Saginaw, in the Western Conference final for the second time in team history, was the only team to win a game against London in the OHL playoffs.

“We’re confident, no doubt,” star defender Zayne Parekh said. “We know how good our group is and we know we probably deserved a better fate in our playoffs there. But we think we are the favorites to win this.”

The Spirit enter the tournament as one of four CHL teams to have a 50-win season, crossing the 100-point barrier for the first time in club history with 102. They were led by Parekh, who paced the team and everyone. CHL defensemen with 96 points (33 goals, 63 assists).

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The 18-year-old, a finalist for CHL Defenseman of the Year, ranks fifth among North American skaters on the NHL Draft Prospect Rankings list. He is one of nine NHL prospects on the Spirit.

Saginaw has a chance to become the third team to win the Memorial Cup at home in the last six tournaments, and be the eighth (and first since 2011) to win as a rookie.

But first, the Spirit will have to take advantage of more scoring opportunities, head coach Chris Lazary said.

“I think the scoring aspect of our team is simply: we create a lot, we defend, we do a lot of good things well. He’s just in the red zone, making sure we convert a little bit more,” he said. “And obviously, for me, we play hard, we lean in, we do all those things that you have to do to win.

“We just have to put a few more pucks in the net. I think it’s just about guys taking advantage of opportunities when they present themselves, whether it’s 5-on-5, power play, whatever and making sure they score.”

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