It is the middle of the summer season. The actual playing of ice hockey matches are still a few months away. And the summer side of life aside, fall and winter are what the Sault College Cougars are planning for as they continue to commit to returning and incoming players ahead of the 2022-2023 men’s hockey season.
As the only Canadian men’s team in the expansive American Collegiate Hockey Association, Sault College plays at the Division 2 level. The Cougars won the Division 3, ACHA championship in 2019 before Covid interrupted parts of each of the past three seasons.
At any rate, the most recent student-athletes to make a commitment to the Sault College men for the 2022-2023 season are a pair of defensemen, Austin Griffin and Branden Kipling.
• A lanky defender — and young, with a 2004 birth date — Griffin skated in the Greater Ontario Jr. Hockey League for the Listowel Cyclones and in the Provincial Jr. C Hockey League for the Hanover Barons in 2021-2022. From Durham, Ontario, Griffin will study Sports Administration at Sault College.
• Kipling most recently played with the Meaford Knights of the Greater Metro Hockey League. Hailing from Selkirk, Manitoba, Kipling’s school interests include Indigenous Social Service and Sports Administration studies.
Other commitments to Sault College for the ’22-23 campaign include a number of notable performers.
• Exceptional work by the Cougars chief scout and recruiter Charly Murray resulted in the commitment of a pair of hard plugging players to Sault College from provinces west and east of Ontario. No strangers to each other, they were teammates with the Dryden Ice Dogs of the Superior International Jr. Hockey League during the ’21-22 season. And now, defenseman Chase Muswagon and forward Pineshish Whiteduck are slated to be teammates again in ’22-23, this time at Sault College.
“These are two young men who we did our homework on and came highly recommended to us,” Murray said of Muswagon and Whiteduck. “From the hockey end, I am confident that both Chase and Pineshish will be among our key players this coming season as we hope to bring another ACHA championship to Sault College. And you and I both know that the Dryden Ice Dogs have a very good reputation as an extremely reputable junior A program that is always at the top or near the top of the standings out there in the Superior league.”
Both Muswagon and Whiteduck played conclusive, effective roles in helping Dryden to a third place finish during the 2021-2022 SIJHL regular season and through two rounds of the playoffs. And in addition to their solid hockey playing abilities, Muswagon and Whiteduck both check the boxes as individuals of good character and good academic standing.
Muswagon has enrolled in the Fish And Wildlife Conservation Program at Sault College while Whiteduck will study Business. Indigenous peoples, Muswagon hails from The Pas, Manitoba and Whiteduck calls Maniwaki, Quebec home.
• Another newcomer to Sault College for the upcoming ’22-23 school term is goalie Cedric Jaubert. Hailing from Papineauville, Quebec, Jaubert has previous ACHA Division 2 experience with the Detroit-based Adrian College Bulldogs. Now 23 years old, Jaubert is a big goalie at 6-foot-4.
• Meanwhile, among the returning players from the ’21-22 Sault College squad for ’22-23 are several local lads who all previously performed well with various teams in the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League. They include defenseman Jordan Ritchie and forwards Noah Boman, Caleb Wood and Ty Zachary.
Ritchie skated in the NOJHL for both the Elliot Lake Wildcats and Espanola Express while Boman, Wood and Zachary all played for the Soo Thunderbirds. Wood also performed well in the NOJHL for the Thunderbirds cross-border rival Soo Eagles.
• As he prepares and gets ready for the ’22-23 campaign as the head coach of the Sault College men, Mike Hall said he is looking forward to a season that won’t be affected by Covid. Having since moved up to Division 2 status from Division 3 as the only Canadian men’s team in the entire ACHA, Hall is anticipating a ’22-23 season in which Sault College can once again play host to home games now that the Canada-United States border is open — and American teams are willing to head this way.
The Cougars did manage to play 15 regular season games — including four across the St. Mary’s River against the Lake Superior State University Lakers ACHA club team — but not a single one was on home ice as part of posting a winning record of 8-4-3 over the course of the ’21-22 term.
“Hopefully the challenges of the past three years are in the past,” Hall relayed to Hockey News North. “All I can say is that I feel good about where we are headed as the Sault College men’s hockey program and members of the ACHA.”
THE HALL WAY
Hall started with the vaunted Soo Legion program in 1983 at the age of 18. He began as the trainer, moved up to assistant manager, then assistant coach before finally becoming head coach in 1993. As the illustrious Soo Legion became the equally renowned Soo North Stars, Hall stayed on as head coach of the esteemed Great North Under 18 Hockey League program for 20 years before retiring at the conclusion of the 2012-2013 season.
In a 12-year span to conclude his run with the Soo Legion/Soo North Stars, Hall was behind the bench as head coach for 10 Great North playoff championships as well as two gold, one silver, and two bronze medals at the All Ontario provincial play downs. And during a spectacular five-year period that put an exclamation point on his stay with the North Stars, the team rang up up a rousing record of 156-9-9 in 174 games.
After a few years away from the game, Hall took over as the men’s head coach at Sault College and in the 2018-2019 season — which was the school’s first venture into the rinks of the Division 3, American Collegiate Hockey Association — he piloted the Cougars to a stunning national championship triumph.
(feature image artwork of Chase Muswagon and Pineshish Whiteduck by Michael Nerino)