As much as he was impressed with the play of his team, Sault College Cougars head coach Mike Hall was wowed with the overwhelming fan support on the weekend.
Playing their first home games of the 2018-2019 American Collegiate Hockey Association season after 15 straight on the road, Sault College showed its teeth to the roar of a packed, partisan following at Rankin Arena.
The only Canadian team in the Division 3, ACHA, Sault College cuffed the visiting Michigan-based Oakland University Grizzlies twice to improve their record to an impressive 14-2-1 on the season.
The Cougars began the weekend with a 10-2 clipping of the Grizzlies before finishing up with a 9-1 triumph before big crowds at the Rankin.
“Our players were pumped up for their first home action of the season and I can’t say enough about the great fan support we received,” Hall told Hockey News North. “We had 800 fans for our home opener on Friday night and another 400 for the Saturday afternoon game. I just want to thank the community and the Sault College student body and faculty for the outstanding support.”
To be sure, Sault College has the makings of an ACHA national championship team.
“Yes, I really think we do,” agreed Hall, whose Cougars are comprised of a plethora of talent from the Sault Ste. Marie area. “We have a lot of skill and depth and we think we can compete with any team. We can certainly score.”
Hall brings many years of high-end coaching to Sault College as a former multiple championship bench boss with the Soo North Stars of the Great North Midget Hockey League.
Cougars scout Charly Murray is also impressed with the team in general — and one line in particular.
“We have a very talented team and the line of (Ryan) Vendramin, (Max) Khull and (Austin) Rowe are something to watch as we climb closer to our goal of reaching Dallas (Texas) next spring for the championship tournament,” noted Murray, who has a lengthy history of scouting for teams in the Northern Ontario Hockey League.
Through 17 games to date, Sault College has scored 129 goals and allowed 59.
This marks the Cougars second season as full fledged members of the ACHA. But as relative newbies, Sault College is forced to play the majority of its games away from home.
However, the Cougars do have two more home games coming up.
Sault College is scheduled to play host to Saginaw Valley State University on Friday, Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 15 at 3 p.m. at GFL Memorial Gardens.
Leading the Sault College scoring parade is aforementioned forward Ryan Vendramin, who has put up remarkable point totals thus far this season.
The 23-year old Vendramin, who previously played for Coach Hall with the Soo North Stars midgets before going on to become a draft pick of the Sarnia Sting and play in 20 games over parts of two Ontario Hockey League seasons, has been lighting up the ACHA in a big way.
Vendramin has played in 15 of Sault College’s 17 games thus far in 2018-2019 and has put up eye-popping totals of 31 goals, 22 assists, 53 points.
Next on the Sault College points parade are Mark Tassone with 7-24-31 totals, Max Khull with 6-25-31 numbers, defenseman Andrew Barbeau with 17 goals, 13 assists, 30 points and Austin Rowe with 15-12-27 statistics.
Tassone (Soo Thunderbirds), Khull (Blind River Beavers) and Rowe (Michigan Soo Eagles) all played in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League last season.
PHOTO: Sault College players salute the fans at Rankin Arena after one of their home-opening weekend wins.