AUSTIN, MN – The Austin Bruins, proud members of the North American Hockey League, announced on Thursday that they have hired alumni goaltender Nick Lehr as goaltending coach, following the departure of Al Rooney to Chippewa Falls earlier this week.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to hire someone of Nick’s caliber,” said Bruins co-owner Mike Cooper. “Then when you add the fact that he is a former Austin Bruin great, it just makes it that much sweeter.”
Lehr played for the Bruins for three seasons from 2011 to 2013 and becomes the first Bruins alumnus to coach for the organization.
“It is an honor to be welcomed back to Austin and I couldn’t be more excited to contribute to an organization and city that did so much for me in the past,” said Lehr. “Thinking back to when I played for Austin, I can’t wait for the fresh SPAM air and great fanbase the Bruins have. It will bring back great memories stepping back into Riverside Arena and I want to contribute as much as possible to the future success of both the organization and the players involved.”
Lehr, 25, went on to play Division I college hockey at the University of Minnesota following his NAHL career, graduating this Spring with a degree in Business and Marketing Education. He’s a native of Roseville, MN and a graduate of Roseville High School.
“We are very excited to add Nick to our coaching staff,” said Bruins head coach and general manager Steve Howard. “He’s learned from one of the best goalie coaches in the business (Justin Johnson) and we are looking forward to Nick passing on his knowledge and experiences to our goalies here in Austin.”
Howard and Lehr have known each other since Lehr’s high school days and worked together during off-seasons at the Minnesota Advancement Program (MAP) and MEGA Goaltending, his most recent employer. Lehr has been associated with the Blaine-based goaltending program since the beginning of his playing career and has been coaching on-and-off since high school.
“With staff such as Steve Howard and Keenan Kelly, their track record speaks well and when they called me with this opportunity I was eager to accept,” said Lehr. “I understand where they want this organization to go and how they want the players to develop, both as hockey players and people.”
Lehr’s NAHL career was a decorated one, including a 35-win 2013-14 season in which he led the Bruins to their first Robertson Cup Finals Appearance in Fairbanks. That season, he posted a 1.84 goals-against average and was top 5 in the NAHL in wins (1st), shutouts (4th), GAA (5th) save percentage (5th). He is also the franchise career wins leader.
“Having played in the NAHL, I will use what I went through as a tool to help the Bruins goaltending,” Lehr said. “Success is a standard within the Bruins organization, as well as moving players on to the collegiate level, and Austin offers that opportunity to those who pursue with passion and work ethic.”
The NAHL has seen a particular trend in goaltending standouts over its history of alumni success, including Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck who has led his team to within a win of the Western Conference Finals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“The NAHL has great success stories for goalies because of how hard it is to succeed in this league and goalies find that out really quick,” said Lehr. “The players in the NAHL work very hard and goalies will see a lot of shots. Every goalie in the NAHL also knows that their spot is never given to them, everything is earned in this league. You have to put the work in to earn success.”