Niederer returning to DII Flames as assistant coach this fall
Former Liberty University ACHA Division II men’s hockey standout forward Michael Niederer (’20, ’22) will join Head Coach Ben Hughes and Assistant Coach Christian Garland on the Flames’ staff for the 2022-23 season.
Niederer, from Minnesota, graduated with a degree in international business in Spring 2020, when he served as the team’s head captain. He played an additional season with the Flames in 2020-21 before completing his MBA through Liberty’s online programs this past May. Niederer, who now works full-time as an investor with a private equity firm in nearby Forest, Va., served as a graduate assistant for the Club Sports Academic team in Fall 2021 and benefited from taking a year off from the sport before launching his coaching career.
“The year away was really good for him to get his mind and heart refreshed and be motivated to pour into the young men and student-athletes on our team,” Hughes said. “How he handles himself, how he approaches the game, and communicates with people will definitely be a huge asset and make him a really good coach.”
“I am excited,” added Niederer, who will be married to Ashley Allen (’22, who will begin studying in Liberty’s School of Law), this Saturday in Indianapolis with Hughes and Garland in attendance. “I lived with guys on the team last year, so I still keep in touch, and I am closer to the guys in age so I will able to relate well to them.”
Hughes said Niederer will work primarily with the Flames’ defensemen, while Garland returns to orchestrate the offense.
“Christian’s coached the forwards for so long now, and he does an incredible job, so I wouldn’t want to take him away from that,” Hughes said. “Michael is one of the smartest guys to ever play at the DII level. He is a student of the game and his knowledge of the game, and Christian character, will help strengthen us.”
Niederer expects to complement Hughes’ and Garland’s coaching styles to add balance to the staff, bringing talents that are not their giftings.
“Coach Hughes is really experienced, and thinks from a high level, and Coach Garland gets much more involved individually with the players and is a little harder on them,” Niederer said. “I’ll be a good balance between them.”
He said he will focus as much on players’ spiritual growth as their development as players, which is the way he was coached by Hughes and Garland.
“It was huge being in an environment where hockey wasn’t the most important thing,” Niederer said. “Obviously, winning was huge, but being able to glorify the Lord was the main thing, and I want to keep that going as a coach.”
By Ted Allen/Staff Writer