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Fargo's Dean Blais named Head Coach of 2010 U.S. National Junior Team

May 28, 2009 - United States Hockey League (USHL) - Fargo Force News Release

USA Hockey announced today that Dean Blais, Fargo Force Head Coach and General Manager, has been selected as the head coach for the 2010 U.S. National Junior Team. The team will compete in the 2010 International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship, scheduled for December 26, 2009 through January 5, 2010 in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan.

"I am honored and excited to be the head coach of this team," stated Dean Blais. "It will be my fourth appearance with the U.S. National Junior Team and I am looking forward to the challenge. It will be a different experience this time. Fifteen years ago, the U.S. Team was finishing seventh or eighth in the world, but now they consistently compete for a medal, which is a testament to the improvement of USA Hockey."

Blais was selected as the 2008-2009 USHL Coach of the Year in his first season in the USHL, leading the expansion Fargo Force to a 32-23-5 regular season record and a trip to the Clark Cup Finals. Fargo, the youngest team in the USHL this past season, played through some adversity under Blais' guidance - the club played its first eight games on the road while awaiting the completion of Fargo's new Urban Plains Center, and won just three of their first 11 contests - but finished strong, entering the Clark Cup playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the League with a 15-4-3 record over the final 22 games of the regular season. Fargo then swept its first two playoff rounds and became just the second expansion club to reach the Clark Cup Finals in its first season of play, ultimately falling to the Indiana Ice, three games to one, in the best-of-five Finals.

Coach Blais' renowned talent for developing elite hockey players came to the forefront this season, as several of the young Force players received individual accolades. They included Mike Lee, USHL Goaltender of the Year, member of the USHL All-Rookie Team, and USA Hockey's Dave Peterson Goalie of the Year; and Andy Taranto, who tied for the league lead in goals scored (34) during the regular season and was named to the All-USHL Second Team. Three other Fargo players - Josh Birkholz, Keegan Flaherty, and Oleg Lee - appeared on the NHL Central Scouting Final Rankings of top North American skaters leading into June's NHL Draft. A total of 16 players for the Fargo Force have committed to play collegiate hockey following their USHL careers.

"In a single year, Dean Blais has brought his signature expertise, dedication, and commitment to excellence to bear upon the USHL and the Fargo Force, and we're a better league for it," said Skip Prince, USHL Commissioner. "We not only congratulate Dean on his appointment, but USA Hockey for selecting someone we believe will be a great coach for Team USA as it goes for the gold at the 'Worlds.' We're proud to see him chosen, and recognize it as one more step in the realignment of the USHL and USA Hockey at all levels. Go USA."

Prior to the USHL, Blais was the head coach for the University of North Dakota men's hockey team for 10 seasons (1994-04). He was twice named the National Coach of the Year and led the Fighting Sioux to the NCAA Championship in 1997 and 2000. He left the program with an overall record of 262-115-33.

Blais, a native of International Falls, Minnesota, is no stranger to international competition, having served as both a player for the U.S. National Team in 1973 and as head coach for the U.S. National Junior Team in 1994 after stints as assistant coach in 1988 and 1989. He was scheduled to coach the 2005 U.S. squad, but resigned to take the position of associate head coach for the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets. Blais also served as assistant coach for the 1992 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Team and was an assistant for Team USA at the 2000 IIHF World Championship.

The USHL celebrated its 30th season of junior hockey in 2008-09. With over 175 players already committed to NCAA Division I schools and 16 NHL Draft picks that played in the league this season, the USHL is the nation's foremost producer of junior hockey talent.

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