In his first and only season as head coach, Dan Lambert guided the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets to within one goal of a Memorial Cup title.
Now the 45-year-old native of St. Boniface, Man., is taking his coaching skills to the next level.
Lambert was hired this week as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.
“This was a decision that was very difficult to make,” said Lambert. “I’d like to thank Bruce Hamilton and the Hamilton family and Lorne Frey for giving me an opportunity six years ago to become part of the Rocket family.
“I would like to thank Ryan Huska, Kim Dillabaugh, Kim Gellert and Ryan Cuthbert for the awesome working environment that was created in the coach’s room. And to all the staff for my first year as a head coach. What a run we had.”
Lambert was first hired by the Rockets as an assistant in 2009, shortly after he had closed out a 19-year professional career in North America and Europe.
He was hired on as head coach by the Rockets in June, 2014, after Ryan Huska accepted a position with the Calgary Flames organization.
In his only season at the helm, Lambert led Kelowna to a 53-15-5-1 regular season record, the B.C. Division, Western Conference and Western Hockey League titles.
At the Memorial Cup in Quebec City, Lambert and the Rockets reached the championship game where they lost a heartbreaker, 2-1 in overtime to the Oshawa Generals.
“We wish Dan well in the future,” said Rockets President/GM Bruce Hamilton. “This is two years in a row we have lost our head coach so it’s tough. But we are about developing our people and we are happy to see Dan move on to the next level.”
Lambert and new Sabres’ head man Dan Bylsma share a history, having played together in the International Hockey League for parts of three seasons during the 1990s.
Bylsma also dropped in on the Rockets this past March to visit with Lambert and help conduct a number of the team’s practises.
Lambert is currently in Buffalo attending the Sabres’ development camp.
The search for a new Kelowna Rockets head coach is under way.
All interested, qualified people may apply by email to firstname.lastname@example.org