Bemidji State's Frozen Four run endsby Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
Bemidji State University has been basking in the national spotlight after its men's hockey team made it to the NCAA Division 1 Frozen Four. Last night, Bemidji's hopes of going all the way were dashed when the Beavers fell to Miami (Ohio) University by a score of 4 to 1.
Bemidji State's unlikely rise to the national stage has been called a Cinderella story by even the most die-hard Beaver fans.
Bemidji, Minn. — The crowd was pumped up in this ballroom at Bemidji State, where hundreds of students, alumni and community members gathered to watch the game on a giant projector screen.
Karen Swedberg, a junior business administration major at BSU said the Beaver's appearance in the Frozen Four was like David and Goliath. She said it means the hockey program now has national stature.
"Some of my friends are from Washington and when they came here, their relatives didn't know where Bemidji was," she said. "And now our name is out there, and they're like, 'Oh, Bemidji. I get it now.' So it's pretty huge."
BSU hockey has been the talk of this northwestern Minnesota community ever since last month, when the Beavers upset second-ranked Notre Dame and then did the same to Cornell University.
Those unlikely wins clinched a spot in the Frozen Four championship.
Frozen Four fever has been contagious in Bemidji. There are signs in businesses all over town supporting the team.
Beaver t-shirts, caps and hoodies have been flying off the shelves. Some businesses closed early Thursday so employees could watch the game.
Mike Curfman, BSU's head women's basketball coach, said everyone loves an underdog, and the Beavers got the community fired up.
"It's almost like a buzz in the air, you know, just kind of an excitement everywhere you go... It was kind of unexpected, but what a great benefit to this community," he said. "(There is) just a lot of positive energy right now with what they've done."
It was just three years ago that BSU officials considered dropping the school's hockey program altogether. That's because the Beavers are part of Division I's shrinking Collegiate Hockey America, a conference set to disband in 2011.
The Beavers are hoping to get into the more prestigious Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
That conference includes larger schools like the University of Minnesota, the University of North Dakota and the University of Denver. None of those teams made it as far as BSU this season.
Drager DeLapp, a BSU alumni from Bemidji, said even though the team lost, he's thrilled that they made it to the Frozen Four.
"Hey, our boys played really well. We got our name out there," he said. "People now know where Bemidji is at, and they're going to do it again next year, only next year they're going to go all the way."
BSU officials say the national exposure gives them more clout for recruiting hockey players.
Plus, there's something else on the horizon. Last week, officials from the university and the city of Bemidji broke ground on a brand new, $59 million Regional Events Center at the south end of Lake Bemidji.
The 4,000 seat arena will be the new home for Beaver hockey when the facility opens next year.
- Morning Edition, 04/10/2009, 7:25 a.m.