Blais Named at Nebraska-Omaha
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OMAHA, Neb. Nebraska-Omaha has tabbed two-time national champion Dean Blais to fill its coaching vacancy. Blais most recently coached the USHL's Fargo Force to the finals in the team's first season.
Blais won national championships with North Dakota in 1997 and 2000. He resigned in 2003 to pursue NHL coaching opportunities. He was recently named head coach of the 2010 U.S. World Junior Team.
Blais ranks ninth among all coaches in Division I hockey history in terms of winning percentage (.679), and would be second among active coaches, behind only Notre Dame's Jeff Jackson. He is 262-115-33 as a D-I head coach, all with North Dakota.
The move will heighten speculation that UNO will move from the CCHA to the WCHA. In a recent interview with CHN, new athletic director Trev Alberts suggested that discussion would intensify after the team named a coach, and that the new coach would have significant input.
The WCHA has been aggressively pursuing Nebraska-Omaha as a "12th team," to enter in conjunction with Bemidji State. The WCHA has set an August deadline to finding a team that could enter with BSU, or else BSU's bid may fail.
Blais, the 2009 USHL Coach of the Year, recently finished leading the Force to the USHL's Clark Cup finals in their first year of play.
Blais, a player on the U.S. World Junior team in 1973, was an assistant for the team in 1988 and 1989. He was the head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team in 1994 and was slated for the same role in 2005, but resigned his position after accepting the job as associate head coach of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets in the summer of 2004.
A native of International Falls, Minn., Blais played four years of college hockey at Minnesota before joining the U.S. National Team in 1973. After skating three years with the Chicago Blackhawks' affiliate in Dallas, he began his coaching career in 1976-77 as an assistant at Minnesota. He then served as the head coach at Minot (N.D.) High School from 1977-80, before a nine-year stint as an assistant men's ice hockey coach at North Dakota.
Blais left UND to be the head hockey coach at Roseau (Minn.) High School in 1989-90 and guided his team to the Minnesota State High School title. He returned to North Dakota as head coach in 1994. During his 10-year tenure, he led the Fighting Sioux to seven NCAA tournament appearances, NCAA Division I championships in 1997 and 2000, and an overall record of 262-115-33 (.679).
Check back for more details as they emerge.
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