Beware the Sault College Cougars. To be sure, manager of hockey operations Mark Hebert is building a prowling program at Sault College that is featuring a growing number of players with high-level junior experience.
The latest student-athlete to commit to playing for the hockey Cougars of Sault College for the 2018-2019 season is goalie Brian Kment.
Academically, the 23-year old Kment is in the bachelor of science nursing program at Sault College. And he will combine his schooling with hockey at Sault College come the 2018-2019 campaign.
After playing at the major midget level in Sault Ste. Marie, Kment went on to tend twine for the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League a few years back.
Quite clearly, Hebert is using his extensive background in scouting and recruiting as a key, behind-the-scenes contributor during the championship seasons of the NOJHL Thunderbirds, to have a good idea who he is getting in a player.
Keeping in mind that schooling is the top priority, Hebert is of the notion that Sault College is going to ice a formidable hockey squad in 2018-2019.
The Cougars have been granted official status as members of the Michigan Collegiate Hockey Conference that plays within the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
“We want to build a hockey program that represents Sault College well and has the ability to compete for a championship,” Hebert told Hockey News North. “This is an opportunity for good players to continue to play and get an education at a good school at the same time.”
The only Canadian school to have full membership in the ACHA, Sault College has quickly become an attractive alternative for junior hockey players looking to combine athletics and academics at an Ontario community college.
As an affiliate member, Sault College has played a smattering of games against ACHA competition over the past two seasons but is slated to play a full 30-game schedule as part of the MCHC in 2018-2019.
Besides the aforementioned Kment, the hockey lineup at Sault College is laden with a number of former players from the NOJHL who have committed to play for the Cougars in 2018-2019.
A big catch is Sault Ste. Marie product Mark Tassone, a highly-regarded left winger who is fresh from three successful seasons with the aforementioned Soo Thunderbirds.
Tassone, who has a 1999 birth date, plans to forgo two more seasons of junior eligibility to play at Sault College and further his education in the Police Foundations program effective the 2018-2019 term.
Tassone played in 164 games for the NOJHL Thunderbirds, regular season and playoffs included and netted 52 goals, 63 assists, 115 points with the T-Birds over a three-year period.
Then there are forwards Max Khull and Steven Khull who are both moving on from the Blind River Beavers of the NOJHL to Sault College.
The cousins, who both have 1999 birth dates, have each played three seasons in Blind River.
Both are from Echo Bay, Ontario, just outside Sault Ste. Marie.
Max, a one-time Ontario Hockey League draft pick of the Niagara Ice Dogs, led Blind River in scoring during the 2017-2018 NOJHL regular season with 28 goals, 36 assists, 64 points.
Steven played in 45 regular season games for Blind River in 2017-2018 and had 9 goals, 12 assists, 21 points.
The Khulls will also study Police Foundations at Sault College.
Another recent, high-end commitment to Sault College is Brad Thrower, a 1997 birth year forward from Thunder Bay, Ontario.
After playing briefly in the NOJHL for the Thunderbirds, the 6-foot, 175-pound Thrower skated for three full seasons with the Thunder Bay North Stars of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League and totaled 58 goals in 155 games.
Other commitments to Sault College for the 2018-2019 season include forward Austin Rowe from the NOJHL’s Soo Eagles and a pair of returning forwards with prior junior experience in Ryan Vendramin and Jason Uhl as well as defenseman Andrew Trowbridge.
Of note, Vendramin played 20 games in the Ontario Hockey League as a former draft pick of the Sarnia Sting.
As returnees to Sault College, Uhl and Trowbridge are also former NOJHLers, having suited up for Blind River a few years back.
Players aside, the Cougars have credible, veteran hockey people on board in addition to the previously mentioned Mark Hebert as they prepare to prowl the rinks against MCHC opponents.
At the helm of the Sault College hockey program as its head coach is Mike Hall. The 53-year old Hall spent 15 seasons behind the bench of the Soo North Stars of the Great North Midget Hockey League, leading them to multiple regional and provincial championships.
Hall is looking forward to a full 30-game schedule for the upcoming season and sees the Sault College program as a credible option for hockey players seeking an education.
“Our program is starting to stabilize,” said Hall. “Players and their families are seeing the value of getting an education at a good school like Sault College.”
As a coach who develops players and recognizes the importance of education being a part of hockey, Hall’s track record from his days with the Soo major midgets speaks volumes about his credibility and passion for the game of hockey.
Rod Trudel will again assist Hall behind the Sault College bench this coming season.
Also on board is veteran NOJHL scout Charly Murray.
The affable Murray, who is a retired steelworker, has decades of experience in the junior game that includes management and scouting positions in the NOJHL with the Thunderbirds, Soo Eagles and Blind River.
Murray has a past that includes helping a number of NOJHL graduates move on to play hockey and attend college and university.