Niagara hockey game day: Purple Eagles at Colgate - The Buffalo News

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Niagara hockey game day: Purple Eagles at Colgate

Puck drop: 4 p.m.

TV: Watch Stadium 

Audio: purpleeagles.com

New leadership: Saturday's outing will be the first as a Division I head coach for Niagara's Jason Lammers, who was named the third bench boss in Niagara program history in April. The Geneseo graduate spent the last two seasons as a head coach and general manager in the United States Hockey League, the top junior league in the country. He led the Dubuque Fighting Saints to a 75-36-9 regular season record and a trip to the Clark Cup Final. His 18 years of coaching experience also includes stops at Geneseo, UMass Lowell, Ohio State, Princeton and Colorado College.

Changing the culture: Lammers walks into a program looking to rebuild after failing to notch double-digit wins since the 2013-14 season. The Purple Eagles' record has decreased by one win in each of the last three campaigns, bottoming out with a 5-31-3 record last season. Niagara found some success last spring in the playoffs, pulling off the 11-6 upset in the first round of the Atlantic Hockey Tournament against RIT. It wasn't enough to save coach Dave Burkholder, who was fired after 16 seasons following a second-round loss to Canisius.

History: Niagara holds a narrow 8-7-2 lead in the all-time series after dropping the teams' most recent matchup, 10-2, in 2012. The last Purple Eagles victory against Colgate was an impressive outing, a 2-1 victory at the then-No. 16 Raiders.

Finally healthy: The Purple Eagles return five players whose 2016-17 season ended early due to injury: Nick Farmer, Tyler Hayes, Ryan Kuhn, Tanner Lomsnes, and Derian Plouffe. All five missed 11 games or more. Plouffe is the most notable, as he led the team with eight points in 12 games before missing the final 27 after suffering a fractured skull in practice.

Keep up the offense: In addition to Plouffe, Niagara returns its top three scorers from last season. Senior Stanislav Dzakhov, a native of Vladikavkaz, Russia, led the team in points (17) and tied for the lead in goals (nine). He is nine points away from 50 in his career. His best performance last year came in crunch time, a two-goal, one-assist performance against RIT in the deciding game three of the teams' tournament series. Kris Spriggs finished second on the team with 16 points as a freshman, while junior Johnny Curran trailed close behind with 15.

For the foes: Colgate, which went 9-22-6 last season, isn't expected to turn its record around in 2017-18. The Raiders were picked to finish second to last in the ECAC preseason coaches poll and last in the media poll. Bobby McMann returns after finishing second on the team in assists and third in points as a freshman.

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