Niagara University has chosen former top Hockey East Conference assistant and current top-level junior coach Jason Lammers to be its next men's hockey coach, sources close to the program report.
Lammers, 41, has spent the past two years as the head coach of the Dubuque Fighting Saints in the United States Hockey League, the premier junior league in the country. Lammers succeeds Dave Burkholder, who was fired last month after 16 years as Niagara's head coach.
Niagara faces a big rebuilding project after going 5-31-3 overall last season and 3-23-2 in the Atlantic Hockey Conference.
In Lammers, Niagara is getting a man with a ton of experience. He was associate head coach for the UMass Lowell team that went to the Frozen Four in 2013. He shifted to the top junior ranks in 2015, gaining more head-coaching experience. He has extensive recruiting connections in both New England and the Midwest.
Burkholder's teams finished .500 or better in 10 of his first 13 seasons and made the NCAA Tournament in 2013. However, Niagara has finished last in the AHC three years in a row and stands a combined 18-84-13 over that stretch.
"He has proven to be a very successful coach throughout his career," said Niagara President Rev. James J. Maher in a statement. "In addition to his success defined by wins and losses, he is a person who demonstrates character, leadership and faith, which make him a great fit for our hockey team."
Lammers, a Pittsburgh native, graduated from Geneseo in 1998 and has been in coaching the past 18 years. His coaching travels took him from Clarkson to Alaska-Fairbanks to Penn State to Princeton. He then got his first head-coaching experience, returning to his alma mater to direct Geneseo to an NCAA Division III tournament appearance in 2005-06.
Lammers moved to Ohio State as an aide from 2006 to 2009. After two years at Colorado College, he joined Mass Lowell's staff in 2011. He was promoted to associate head coach in 2012. The school won the Hockey East title in 2013 and 2014 in addition to the Frozen Four appearance.
Lammers left the River Hawks after the 2014-15 season to take the head job with Dubuque, which is 75-36-9 in his two seasons. Seventeen players from the 2015-16 team went onto play NCAA Division I hockey this season. The Fighting Saints reached the USHL finals last year and still are alive in the USHL playoffs. The USHL averages roughly 30 NHL draft picks a year.
"Jason Lammers is a transformational hire for this university," said Simon Gray, Niagara athletic director. "Jason has had tremendous success at the collegiate level, as evidenced by multiple bids to the NCAA Tournament and his ability to develop NHL-caliber players."