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Tense excitement erupts at Bemidji bar as Beavers make history

Fans in Bemidji welcome home the Bemidji State University men's hockey team from Michigan at 2 a.m. today. The Beavers defeated Cornell to gain entrance for the first time to the NCAA men's hockey championship tournament, the Frozen Four, in Washington, D.C. (Bemidji Pioneer photo)

While the Beavers played in Van Andel Arena four states away, the scene in Bemidji was tense excitement early Sunday evening.

Around 75 people gathered at The Ground Round in Bemidji to watch the Midwest Regional Championship between Bemidji State and Cornell on five television screens at the restaurant/bar located on the northwest side of town.

The mood was quiet early on as the two teams played out a scoreless first period.

It was not that quiet again until everyone hushed to hear Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore talk about the historic 4-1 victory on ESPNU - a television network only available in Bemidji through an extended service on Paul Bunyan Television or satellite.

The crowd erupted into "Lets Go Beavers!" chants after Ryan Adams tied the game and was followed by another series of similar chants after the Beavers went up 2-1 on Tyler Scofield's goal.

When it became 3-1 Beavers on Matt Francis' goal in the third period, the roar was deafening.

The fans could smell the win.

Want a visual?

Think of the scene from the movie Major League where people beat their fists into the bar together in rapid succession to cheer on a fictional Cleveland baseball team.

At the Ground Round, it was to the cadence of B! S! U!

Bartenders and waitresses high-fived the customers after goals. Other customers were jumping around with their fists in the air and hugging strangers.

Many of the Bemidji State women's hockey players were there cheering along.

And in the era of modern technology, cell phones were used to text message and deliver photos of the scene to friends inside and outside of Bemidji who were unable to share in the celebration together.

When the Scofield made it 4-1 Beavers in the third period - it became a festive Sunday night party and "Frozen Four!" chants filled the room.

The roar returned after the 10-second countdown as Bemidji State's berth in the Frozen Four became official.

Some even cried.

After the game, the bartenders turned on the loudspeaker and urged customers to welcome home the Beavers early Monday morning - which was punctuated by another loud cheer.

Even Bemidji State University President John Quistgaard was in attendance.

When prompted to make a speech by the celebrating customers, Quistgaard urged everyone to come out and show support in Friday's Bemidji Regional Events Center groundbreaking celebrations.

Specifically, he mentioned the rally at 5 p.m. in Room 100 of Memorial Hall at BSU. The rally is planned as a show of support for BSU hockey.

The Bemidji State men's hockey program is trying to gain admittance into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, arguably the premiere hockey conference in college hockey.

The WCHA executive committee will visit Bemidji Friday for a site visit.

The group is expected in April to vote on Bemidji's entrance into the league