Sanford signs with Golden Bears

Vernon's Cole Sanford will start the 2017 hockey season with the University of Golden Bears.

Cole Sanford.

Cole Sanford.

Vernon’s Cole Sanford has left pro hockey for the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

Sanford, 21, racked up seven goals and 15 points in 19 games with the ECHL Colorado Eagles, his first year in minor pro.

The 5-foot-7, 170-pound right winger pocketed 116 goals and 249 points in four Western League seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers and Regina Pats.

“I felt it was a wiser choice to think of my schooling. I get five years (through WHL scholarship play) and if I play pro past, I think it’s Dec. 30, I would have to redshirt (sit out) if I played college hockey next year,” said Sanford, while home in Vernon on Friday. “I’m in the East Coast at 21 and I didn’t think there was a great opportunity for me to move up (American League).”

Sanford was sent to the Eagles, based in Loveland, after attending the Colorado Avalanche training camp. He was undrafted.

The slick roadrunner, who was at the Edmonton Oilers’ camp a year ago, will be reunited with Medicine Hat linemate Trevor Cox with the Golden Bears.

“He says it’s good hockey and they have a good team and are known for a winning program,” said Sanford, who will take general studies. “It’ll be fun. Trevor and I will be living together, playing hockey together and going to school together.”

Cox pocketed 191 points in his final two years alongside Sanford in Medicine Hat. Cox was traded to the Vancouver Giants and Sanford dealt to the Pats in their 20-year-old seasons. Cox played briefly for the ECHL Quad City Mallards last year.

“Colorado, in general, was nice and the team was good,” said Sanford. “They treat you well and I was playing well at the time I made my decision.”

The Edmonton-based Golden Bears have won 15 national titles and are tied for third with the Calgary Dinosaurs, at 10-5-1, in the CIS Canada West Conference.

Former Kelowna Rocket Tyson Baillie, a native of Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., plays for the Bears, who host the 5-10-1 UBC Thunderbirds Friday, Jan. 6.

The Saskatchewan Huskies lead the Canada West at 11-3-2, while the Mt. Royal Cougars of Calgary are second at 11-5. The Regina Cougars, with Vernon products Zach McPhee and Colton Sparrow on their roster, are last at 3-12-1.