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Burkholder out as Niagara hockey coach

Dave Burkholder, who has been part of the Niagara University hockey program since its inception in 1996, is out as the team’s head coach.

Niagara made the announcement Monday afternoon in a news release.

The Purple Eagles were eliminated from the Atlantic Hockey playoffs when they were swept by Canisius in the quarterfinals.

Niagara went 5-31-3 this season, including two playoff wins over RIT in the first round. It was the worst record in program history, although the team lost 234 man-games to injury this season.

“The ice hockey program at Niagara University is incredibly important to the university community. Its success plays an important role in the vibrancy of our campus life, and that extends beyond the campus into our region,” Niagara athletic director Simon Gray said in a statement. “Much of that culture can be credited to Dave Burkholder’s legacy with our team. However, after recent discussions with Dave about the future of the program, both Dave and the university have decided that a change in leadership is best for the program.”

Burkholder had no comment Monday afternoon. He was assistant coach under Blaise MacDonald for the first five years of the program then took over as head coach in 2001. Under Burkholder the team made two NCAA appearances as part of the now-defunct College Hockey America (2004, 2008) and was twice the league’s Coach of the Year.

When the CHA folded, he guided the transition to Atlantic Hockey where the team won the regular season title in 2013 and earned the league’s first at-large bid to the NCAA tournament that year. He was honored as the Atlantic Hockey Coach of the Year.

But the program fell on hard times after that 2013 run. The Purple Eagles went 15-20-5 the following year, then fell to the bottom of Atlantic Hockey.

In the last three seasons the team went 18-84-13.

“Dave has worked tirelessly for NU and has represented our mission well,” Gray continued in the statement. “Dave has made an impact on a significant number of lives in the hockey community and has been an integral part of Western New York for more than 20 years. On behalf of the entire university, we thank Dave for his dedication and service to Niagara University.”

Niagara said a national search will begin immediately.

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