Former University of North Dakota head coach and current Fargo Force (USHL) head coach and GM Dean Blais will be named the new head coach at the University of Nebraska-Omaha at a 2 p.m., press conference today (link).
Sources tell Let's Play Hockey that as a part of Blais' negotiations with UNO for the position, the Mavericks will accept the WCHA's offer to switch conferences from the CCHA. The earliest UNO could join the WCHA would be in 2011-12, giving the league 12 teams with the expected addition of Bemidji State.
A native of International Falls, Blais played college hockey at the University of Minnesota, followed by a three-year pro career with the Dallas Black Hawks (CHL). He returned to the U in 1976-77 as an assistant coach before becoming the head coach at Minot High School from 1977-80. Blais then spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at North Dakota. From 1990-94, Blais returned to high school hockey as head coach of Roseau (1990-91) and International Falls (1992-94).
Blais went back to Grand Forks as head coach in 1994, staying in that position until 2004. During his time with the Fighting Sioux, Blais helped UND to a pair of NCAA titles (1997, 2000) and five WCHA championships, while compiling an overall record of 262-115-33.
In 2004, Blais left the college ranks to become an associate coach with the Columbus Blue Jackets for two seasons. He then spent one season in player development with the NHL franchise. Since 2007, Blais has been the head coach and general manager for the USHL's newest team, the Fargo Force. Blais helped the Force to a runnner-up finish in the USHL's Clark Cup finals in the team's first year of competition.
He left North Dakota for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets, for whom he worked in player development and as associate head coach. He then returned to North Dakota and spent last year as the head coach and general manager of the Fargo Force, the United States Hockey League expansion team that beat the Omaha Lancers in the playoffs and reached the Clark Cup finals.
Blais is set to replace longtime UNO head coach Mike Kemp who was promoted to associate athletic director under new athletic director Trev Alberts.