Frozen Four: Couple may be only Bemidians in red Thursday
As hordes of Bemidji State University men's hockey fans - both longtime and come-lately - sing "Go Bemidji Beavers; Go you Green and White" Thursday, Jared and Penny Echternach will be singing "Love and honor to Miami, our college old and grand."
"I don't want to be run out of town, but we love Miami," said Penny.
"I can't wait 'til Thursday," said Jared. "It's so great for both programs, both their first trips to the Frozen Four."
Jared, a 1990 Bemidji High School graduate, and Penny, a Findlay, Ohio, native, met as students at the University of Miami in Oxford, Ohio - she a psychology major, and he an English major. They graduated in 1996 and married in 1997.
"I was on the men's hockey team, a forward," said Jared, who earned a full hockey scholarship to Miami, which was a Division I university when BSU was still a Division II school.
Penny said her best friend and roommate was dating the Miami goalie.
"They broke up, but we stayed together," Penny said. "They call it a Miami Merger when Miami students get married."
"I actually played with the head coach (Enrico Blasi) and assistant coach now (Chris Bergeron,)" Jared said.
Blasi was also Jared's roommate. Jared and Penny were able to enjoy a little reunion and meet the current Miami players when Miami played University of Minnesota, Duluth, during the West Regional Playoffs.
Penny said she was wearing a little RedHawks booster sticker on her coat lapel Friday when she was on her way to the groundbreaking for the Bemidji Regional Event Center.
"I thought 'I better take that off, or I'll get beat up,'" she said with a smile.
Although Penny said they will be backing their alma mater during the BSU-Miami game Thursday, they are sharing in the hockey excitement bubbling around Bemidji.
"It's all good fun, and we're friends with a lot of the coaching staff and Beaver fans," Jared said. "They know we're cheering for Miami."
"I'll still cheer a little when BSU scores because I'm a Beaver Pride member," Penny said.
But Jared said for him, it's Miami all the way.
"It's just fun to have this buzz in town," Penny said.
Penny said when her roommate introduced her to Jared, she knew he was the guy for her.
"We met at a place called Connections, a restaurant and bar, so it must have been fate," she said.
Jared is membership service manager for Itasca Mantrap Electric Cooperative in Park Rapids, and Penny is director of the North Country Health Services Foundation and director of communications.
They explained that the University of Miami has no connection with Miami, Fla. The university is situated in the Miami Valley, named for a local American Indian tribe. The university was founded in 1809, more than a century before Bemidji State Normal School opened in 1919.
BSU's student population is about 5,000. Jared said Miami was a school of about 16,000 when they were students, and currently has about that many students.
"The town is very small," Penny said. "The college is the town."
Penny and Jared said they will host a small party at their home and watch the game on TV when the Beavers and RedHawks take to the ice Thursday. Jared will wear his RedHawks jersey, No. 26, complete with old, but indelible puck marks. Penny will wear a Miami sweatshirt, but not the outfit she wore to watch Jared play when they were students.
"We girls dressed up," she said.