The time is now for the Bemidji State men’s hockey program.
In a story that will receive attention in college hockey circles over the next couple of weeks, the Beavers defeated Cornell on Sunday in the Midwest Regional final to gain a berth in the Frozen Four tournament, which starts April 9 in Washington.
BSU is a team that is just five games above .500. It’s a team that beat a school called Robert Morris in its conference final. It’s a team that got in only for winning its conference, that basically was given the worst seed in a 16-team tournament.
The Beavers aren’t just playing to keep their season alive. Advancing to the final four of college hockey bolsters the program’s viability.
Bemidji State is a member of College Hockey America, a four-team conference that is dissolving after next season. The school has formally applied for acceptance into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, one of the nation’s powerhouse conference which includes the University of Minnesota and University of North Dakota.
Those two teams won’t be in the Frozen Four. In fact, no member of the WCHA is among the four still vying for college hockey’s national championship.
A new 4,000-seat arena being built in Bemidji will be a boost for the school’s chances of getting a spot in the WCHA. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the arena are scheduled for April 3, which should make for a nice celebration between now and the Frozen Four.
The Beavers started 1-6 this season. Prior to facing UND at the midpoint of the season, Bemidji coach Tom Serratore told Grand Forks Herald hockey writer Brad Schlossman his team had been a little "offensively challenged." But with a 5-1 over Notre Dame and a 4-1 over Cornell in the Midwest Regional, it looks like the offense isn’t having any trouble putting the puck in the net.
BSU will make its presentation to the WCHA for admission into the league at the annual college hockey coaches conference next month in Florida. Eight of 10 teams must approve the addition.
It seems unlikely the conference would have an odd number of teams. Maybe another team steps into the fold to make the WCHA an even 12.
But with a new arena coming and a run to the Frozen Four, Bemidji State will be taking its fans on quite a ride of the next couple of weeks.