From Sault This Week
By Randy Russon
They were celebrated national champions in their first season as the only Canadian men’s team in the entire American Collegiate Hockey Association. And the Sault College Cougars were poised for a title run at a second straight championship when COVID-19 abruptly ended the hockey season just before the national tournament in the spring of 2020.
Now, here we are, November of 2021 and the Sault College men are back to playing and practicing again in the 2021-2022 season after COVID-19 prevented any such activity for the entire 2020-2021 campaign.
With seasoned, hard driven, hard driving coach Mike Hall again at the helm of the Cougar hockey men, Sault College has assembled a lineup of local and regional players as well as others who have ventured here from other parts of Canada.
The ageless Hall, who coached the under 18 Soo North Stars to multiple league and provincial championships before stepping away from the game for a bit only to return to it when Sault College re-established a varsity men’s team in 2018, is a reputable hockey guy through and through — an intense, no nonsense bench boss who has rules and procedures and expects them to be adhered to.
“We have a great program, a lot of support from the school and our athletics department, led by Paul Orazietti, is just fantastic,” Hall told Sault This Week. “As for our hockey staff, Mark (Hebert) does a great job as our manager and when you can get a guy like Zoltan (Kovacs) as an assistant coach, it just makes our program that much better.”
Hall saluted Hebert and local scout/recruiter Charly Murray for “doing a great job of going out and getting us so many good hockey players who are also good students. We always tell any potential recruit that if they are not serious about school, then we don’t want them on our hockey team. It’s that simple.”
Kovacs, as an assistant coach at Sault College, has a past that includes being an assistant under Craig Hartsburg with the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League.
Notably, the Cougars boast several players who have considerable experience from time in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League and Superior International Jr. Hockey League.
That impressive list includes forwards Parker Morgan, Caleb Wood, Noah Boman and Ty Zachary from the Soo Thunderbirds and other former NOJHLers such as forwards Jacob Bumbaco (Soo Eagles) and Matt Capisciolto (Soo Eagles and Timmins Rock), Alex Paul (French River Rapids) and defencemen Keaston Blais (Cochrane Crunch) and Jordan Ritchie (Espanola Express and Elliot Lake Wildcats.)
Meanwhile, at Sault College from prior service in the SIJHL are defenceman Jace Pitawanakwat (Kam River Fighting Walleye and Red Lake Miners) and twin brother forwards Austin Cardinal (Wisconsin Lumberjacks and Thunder Bay North Stars) and Ryley Cardinal (Wisconsin and Thunder Bay.)
Also at Sault College is forward Hunter Buzzi, who played in both the NOJHL and the SIJHL. Buzzi skated in the NOJHL for Cochrane and prior to that, lined up for the Fort Frances Lakers of the SIJHL.
Meanwhile, the 2021-2022 season finally got underway for Sault College with a recent 4-0 road victory over the Lake Superior State Lakers entry in the ACHA.
Coming up in November are two road games at Trine University before Sault College has four home contests next month — Dec. 3 and 4 against Marian University and Dec. 10 and 11 versus Lake Superior State.
(Originally published at https://www.saultthisweek.com/news/local-news/sault-college-cougars-back-in-action)