For the second time in his seven years at the helm of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Dean Blais has been named the Spencer Penrose Award recipient as the nation’s top collegiate hockey coach.
With a final record of 29-8-9, Blais and the Sioux fell just short of a fifth consecutive 30-win season in 2000-2001, losing in the NCAA Championship game to Boston College, 3-2, in overtime.
A .750 winning percentage in conference play (18-4-6) enabled the Sioux to capture the WCHA regular season title for the fourth time in five years.
Blais’ accomplishments are that much more noteworth when considering the adversity he faced this season; his daughter Mary Beth was diagnosed with a form of leukemia in December.
Blais’ coaching expertise — and confidence — was on display at last weekend’s Frozen Four in Albany, N.Y., as the Sioux defeated top-ranked Michigan State in the semifinal by a 2-0 score, giving them a chance to defend their 2000 title. Down 2-0 late in the third period against BC with a power play upcoming, Blais removed his goaltender, Karl Goehring, in favor of an extra attacker with over four minutes remaining. The Sioux scored to pull within one, and then scored again in the final minute to send the game into overtime.
Blais first won the Penrose Award following the 1997 season, when he took a team that had finished just over .500 in the 1995-96 season to its sixth NCAA championship and first in 10 years. He was again a finalist the following year.
A native of International Falls, Minn., Blais was a four-year letterman at Minnesota and received his Master’s Degree in Education at UND in 1982. Following a nine-year tenure as an assistant coach at North Dakota, Blais spent time coaching with the U.S. National Program before returning to the Sioux at the head coach in 1994.
The runner-up in this year’s Spencer Penrose Award balloting was Paul Pooley, head coach at Providence. College hockey’s Coach of the Year recipients are chosen by members of the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA). Winners will receive their awards at the annual AHCA Coach of the Year Banquet, held in conjunction with the AHCA Convention in Naples, Fla., later this month.
This year’s banquet, which celebrates 50 years since the inaugural Coach of the Year Award in 1951, is scheduled for Saturday, April 28.