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Dean Blais
Position: Head Coach
Hometown: International Falls, Minn.
Alma Mater: Minnesota
Graduating Year: 1973
Phone: 402-554-6284
Email: dblais@omavs.com
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Dean Blais enters his eighth season as the head coach of the Mavericks in 2016-17, having led them to three 20-wins seasons, two NCAA berths and the school’s first trip to the Frozen Four since being named to the position in the summer of 2009.  Throughout his tenure, Blais has guided the Mavericks to numerous milestones and conference affiliations, placing them among some of college hockey’s elite programs.

In 2015-16, Blais led the Mavericks to a record of 18-17-1 and a mark of 8-15-1-0/0 in their third year in the NCHC, good for sixth place.  Omaha posted the first perfect non-conference record in school history, going 10-0-0 outside the NCHC while inaugurating play at Baxter Arena with eight straight wins.

The Mavericks continue to be one of the nation’s top draws.  That did not change in Blais’ seventh season behind the bench, particularly with the debut of Baxter Arena and its host of fan-friendly amenities in addition to the exciting brand of hockey played under its roof. They finished the year ranked fourth in the country in attendance with an average of 6,918.

Blais’ profound effect on the Omaha hockey program reached its highest point to date when he took the Mavericks to their first appearance in the Frozen Four in 2014-15.  That season, Blais had a team that began the season with 18 freshmen and sophomores and was picked to finish sixth in the NCHC. As they have done so often during his tenure, the Mavericks defied expectations by placing third with a record of 12-8-4 and earning the program’s third berth in the NCAA playoffs. Along the way, the Mavericks knocked off perennial contenders Minnesota State, Miami and Denver and earned a big overtime win over No. 1 North Dakota in yet another epic series between the two schools.

Once in the NCAA Tournament, the Mavericks earned their first NCAA playoff win, beating Harvard, 4-1, in the semifinals of the NCAA Midwest Regional. The next night, they blanked RIT, 4-0, to earn the school’s first trip to the Frozen Four. In Boston, UNO lost to eventual national champion Providence, 4-1, but gained valuable big-game experience that will serve them well in the years ahead. Blais was a finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award and for the NCHC’s Coach of the Year Award.

The Mavericks hit yet another milestone during Blais’ tenure when they made their debut in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference in 2013-14. Picked to finish last in the first-year circuit, Omaha finished third with a record of 13-9-2-1.

It was clear the Mavericks would be better than their preseason ranking by November, when they took on four ranked teams in consecutive weekends, defeating the likes of Denver, North Dakota, Michigan and Miami to go 6-2-0.

For the second straight year, Blais coached an All-American as Josh Archibald was named a first-team West pick. He led the NCHC in scoring and set a school record with 29 goals in a season. Archibald became just the second Maverick to earn first-team honors.

In 2012-13, Blais’ Mavericks put together a seven-game winning streak in November, one win from tying the school record. The Mavs also played in the first outdoor game in school history on Feb. 9, 2013, facing off with North Dakota at TD Ameritrade Park. Blais coached Ryan Walters to Second-Team West All-America honors, making him just the fourth Maverick to be so honored.

The Mavericks also closed out their three-year tenure in the WCHA with a winning conference record of 14-12-2, including a mark of 8-5-1 in league road games that included stops in Minnesota, Denver and Minnesota Duluth. It was the third straight year they finished above .500 in WCHA road games under Blais’ leadership.

In 2011-12, Blais led the Mavericks to a stunning upset of No. 1-ranked, defending national champion Minnesota Duluth, a win that ended UMD’s 17-game unbeaten streak. The win was reminiscent of his first year at UNO when the Mavericks beat top-ranked Miami in Oxford, Ohio to end the RedHawks’ 23-game unbeaten streak against fellow CCHA teams on Feb. 20, 2010.

The Mavericks were another tough team to play on the road during the 2011-12 season, especially in conference play. They were 6-5-3 on the road in the WCHA, a record that included big wins at Wisconsin, Bemidji State, North Dakota, Michigan Tech and Colorado College.

Under Blais, UNO continued its trend of attracting big crowds. The Mavericks drew a school-record crowd of 16,138 for a game with Minnesota Duluth on Jan. 13, the first sellout of the CenturyLink Center in school history.

Blais again found himself on the international stage in 2011-12, coaching Team USA in the 2012 World Junior Championship in Calgary. It was the second time in three years he led the Americans, who won gold in 2010.

Blais became only the second coach in UNO hockey history on June 12, 2009, succeeding Mike Kemp. In his first year in Omaha, he guided the Mavericks to a record of 20-16-6 overall record and a 13-12-3-2 record in their final season in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. The record was good for a sixth-place finish, the highest finish by a UNO team since the 2006-07 season.

The Mavericks got stronger as the year progressed. The team was just 10-11-5 entering a weekend series with Northern Michigan in January. The Mavs had already lost two games to the Wildcats in November at Marquette, but they turned the tables in the rematch, winning by scores of 7-2 and 5-3 to ignite a run in the final six weeks of the season.

Blais then led UNO to a record of 8-3-1 in the final 12 games. During that string, the Mavericks won at Notre Dame for the first time in nearly five years, beating the Irish 5-3 in the first game of the weekend. They also earned their first series sweep over Michigan, a team they had beaten just four times in 31 prior meetings, with 4-3 and 4-1 wins at Qwest Center Omaha. UNO followed with a win over No. 1 Miami and closed with a 3-2 win over No. 6 Bemidji State.

Blais found a way to get the most from his players in his first season at UNO. Eleven different players registered career highs in either goals, assists or points during the 2009-10 campaign. Plus, Blais’ vaunted conditioning program paid off as the Mavericks were unbeaten (14-0-3) when leading after the second period.

In December of 2010, Blais took over the reins of U.S. Junior Team at the 2010 IIHF World Junior Championship. He led the U.S. to a record of 6-0-1-0, capping it off with a 6-5 overtime win over host country Canada in the gold medal game, just the second gold ever won by the U.S. in the World Junior tournament.

During the 2010-11 season, Blais led UNO into the WCHA, where the Mavs finished third after being picked eighth and ninth in two preseason polls. UNO returned to the NCAA playoffs for just the second time and achieved a national ranking of fourth for four straight weeks, the highest in school history.

Under Blais’ leadership, the Mavericks were 21-16-2 and 17-9-2 in their first WCHA season. The third-place finish was the highest ever for the Mavs in conference play. UNO’s strong showing earned Blais the nod as the WCHA’s Coach of the Year and put him in the running for the Spencer Penrose Trophy as Division I hockey’s top coach. It wasn’t difficult to see why Blais earned the accolades. The Mavericks swept their first WCHA series, winning twice at Minnesota. They followed that with a split of a non-conference series at Michigan, a place where they had won just once previously. Before Christmas, the Mavericks had won and tied at always-tough St. Cloud State and stunned preseason favorite North Dakota, winning 1-0 at home on a goal with .3 seconds remaining in regulation.

The second half of the year featured another stunning win over North Dakota, an 8-4 victory at vaunted Ralph Engelstad Arena. Typical of Blais’ teams, the Mavericks surged down the stretch with back-to-back sweeps of St. Cloud and Wisconsin and hard-fought splits with Denver and at eventual national champion Minnesota Duluth. Blais earned win No. 300 with a 4-3 win over the Badgers on Feb. 12.

UNO’s return to the NCAA playoffs was short-lived as the Mavericks lost to Michigan 3-2 in overtime in the regional semifinals, but Blais once again was successful in further raising the expectations of his players and UNO fans alike. Seven players registered career highs in either goals, assists or points.

Blais came to UNO from the Fargo Force of the United States Hockey League, where he served as head coach and general manager. As head coach of an expansion team in 2008-09, Blais led the Force to a record of 32-23-5. The team advanced to the USHL’s Clark Cup Finals before losing to the Indiana Ice three games to one. He was named USHL Coach of the Year, and the Force was named Organization of the Year.

As a college head coach, Blais won NCAA Division I national championships with North Dakota in 1997 and 2000. North Dakota was the runner up in 2001, the last of five straight NCAA appearances under Blais. The native of International Falls, Minn., also guided UND to seven NCAA appearances, five regular season WCHA titles and two WCHA playoff championships.

Blais is a two-time winner of the Spencer Penrose Memorial Award as the Division I coach of the year and a four-time WCHA Coach of the Year honoree. He was 262-115-33 (.679), including five 30-win seasons, at North Dakota. In total, he spent 19 seasons with UND, nine as an assistant and 10 as the head coach. In that time, he coached 60 NHL draft picks, 28 All-Americans, three WCHA players of the year, four WCHA rookies of the year, 40 members of the All-WCHA team and 11 All-WCHA rookie team picks.

In addition to coaching Team USA in 2010 and 2012, Blais was the head coach of the U.S. National Junior Team in 1993 and an assistant in 1987 and 1988. He was an assistant for Team USA in the 2000 IIHF World Championships.

Blais also worked for the Columbus Blue Jackets of the National Hockey League from 2004-07. He served as associate head coach during the 2005-06 season and as director of player development in 2006-07.

Blais played collegiately at Minnesota from 1969-73. In 124 games, he had 56 goals and 83 assists for 139 points. He was the Gophers’ Rookie of the Year in 1970 and an NCAA All-Tournament selection in 1971. After college, he played three seasons of pro hockey with the Chicago Blackhawks’ development team in Dallas, Texas.

He began his career as an assistant at Minnesota in 1976-77, then was the head coach at Minot (N.D.) High School from 1977-80 before his stint as an assistant at UND.

Blais left UND to be the head coach at Roseau (Minn.) High School in 1989-90 where he led his team to the state championship. His team was the conference and regional champion in 1991. He then left to serve as assistant coach of the U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey Team that took fourth place in the Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France.

After the Olympics, Blais returned to the high school ranks as athletic director and hockey coach at International Falls (Minn.) High School before rejoining North Dakota as head coach in 1994.

Blais is the father of three grown children: Sarah, Ben and Mary Beth. 

Dean Blais Year-By-Year Coaching Records

                      Overall                  Conference          NCAA Tournament

North Dakota                        
Year W L T Pct.      W L L Pct. Place W-L Finish
1994-95 18 18 3 .500   14 15 3 .484 T-5 -- --
1995-96 19 18 1 .513   16 15 1 .516 T-4 -- --
1996-97 31 10 2 .744   21 10 1 .672 T-1 3-0 National Champion
1997-98 30 8 1 .782   21 6 1 .768 1 0-1 Quarterfinalist
1998-99 32 6 2 .825   24 2 2 .893 1 0-1 Quarterfinalist
1999-00 31 8 5 .761   17 6 5 .696 2 3-0 National Champion
2000-01 29 8 9 .782   18 4 6 .750 1 2-1 Finalist
2001-02 16 19 2 .459   11 15 2 .429 T-6 -- --
2002-03 26 12 5 .663   14 9 5 .589 4 0-1 Region Semifinalist
2003-04 30 8 3 .768   20 5 3 .768 1 1-1 Region Finalist
Total 262 115 33 .679   176 87 29 .652      
                         
Omaha                        
Year W L T Pct.   W L T Pct. Place W-L NCAA Tournament
2009-10 20 16 6 .548   13 12 3 .518 6 -- --
2010-11 21 16 2 .564   17 9 2 .643 3 0-1 Region Semifinalist
2011-12 14 18 6 .447   11 12 5 .482 7 -- --
2012-13 19 18 2 .513   14 12 2 .536 7 -- --
2013-14 17 18 2 .486   13 9 2 .583 3 -- --
2014-15 20 13 6 .590   12 8 4 .583 3 2-1 Frozen Four Semifinalist
2015-16 18 17 1 .514   8 15 1 .354 6 --  
Total 129 116 25 .524   88 77 19 .530      
                         
  W L T Pct.   W L T Pct.     NCAA Tournament
Total 391 231 58 .618   264 164 48 .605     (11-7), Nine Appearances