Robert Morris will open their regular season on the road this season in Niagara Falls, New York, where the Pittsburgh-based college squad will face a Pittsburgh-based head coach in a game that can only speak to the impressive growth of hockey in this city. The Niagara Purple Eagles will open up their home season with first-year head coach and Pittsburgh native Jason Lammers behind the bench.
Lammers, a North Allegheny alum, took the long road to a Division I head coaching job. After playing his way into the minors out of SUNY-Geneseo as a defenseman, he took to coaching. His first head coaching gig was at his college alma mater, in 2005, but there were nine other stops on the way to a head college spot. He was an assistant coach at Ohio State, UMass-Lowell and Colorado College, among others. He most recently spent time as a head coach in the USHL.
A highlight of the journey for Lammers was earning a trip to Consol Energy Center for the Frozen Four as an assistant coach to Norm Bazin at UMass-Lowell in 2013. That team featured current Pittsburgh Penguins Chad Ruhwedel and Scott Wilson. It was a special moment and a special memory because Lammers’ Pittsburgh background and love of the Penguins inspired and fueled his fire to climb the ranks and grow with the game of hockey.
“I am a Mario Lemieux baby and I do not know if I would have played hockey had I not gotten the chance to watch him play. He’s the inspiration and the motivation that created it,” Lammers stated. “I bleed black and gold that is a part of who I am and what I am from.”
There is no measuring the impact of what Mario Lemieux had on the game of hockey in the Pittsburgh area, and Lammers is the perfect example of what he created.
Lammers was a young kid with a toy stick glued to the television and aspired to be like Lemieux as he weaves in and out of defenders. Not only did Lemieux provide the inspiration, his presence led to more kids playing hockey, more rinks and more talent from the area, not just at the NHL level, but throughout the college and minor league system.
“Many of the people in the area I played for and played with in Pittsburgh hockey made it exciting, which gave me the chance to move onto college and the minors,” Lammers said. “It was because of the success of the Pittsburgh sports teams that I have the expectation to follow along with the city of championships.”
Lammers sees the same thing happening during the Penguins’ current run of success with players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“When you study the history of Pittsburgh, it is really interesting to see the jump of players that moved on through college and the minors because of Lemieux, and then there is a lull before Sidney Crosby and then boom a lot more players are coming out of Pittsburgh again,” Lammers said.
With reaching the Division I level, Lammers has accomplished a goal he’s had for a long time, but he does admit that there will be adjustments in his first season and that his schedule will be a lot different. For the hockey-raised head coach the new adjustments come more off of the ice than on it.
“In terms of being a college head coach, you are more of a CEO, because so much is happening, so many people need a part of your time so you have to be a really good manager of time,” acknowledged Lammers.
Niagara is coming off a seven-win season, the worst in program history. It might take time for Lammers to build this program up and put in the same values of consistency and winning that he has brought to every team he has touched so far.
The Colonials will make two trips to Dwyer Arena, this year — this Friday and Tues., Jan. 9.