Associated Press, Published April 09 2009
Men's hockey, Frozen Four: Miami 4, Bemidji State 1 - finalWASHINGTON – Bemidji State’s out-of-the-blue story is over. Let Miami’s begin.
That’s Miami of Ohio, by the way, a distinction not needed in the world of college hockey – especially not this week. The RedHawks are headed to the NCAA championship game after beating fellow upstart Bemidji State 4-1 on Thursday night at the Frozen Four.
Bemidji State had the funkier name (pronounced, as many know by now, beh-MIDGE-ee) and the support of kindred spirits from George Mason – which loaned its “Green Machine” pep band to the green-clad Beavers for the week – but Miami had the three-goal burst in the second period in the first national semifinal game played by any sports team in the school’s history.
Miami (23-12-5) will face the winner of Boston University and Vermont, who played later Thursday, in Saturday’s title game. Bemidji State (20-16-1) will head home with a George Mason-like feeling – good enough to make its sport’s biggest stage, but not good enough to win once it was there.
Stunning upsets in the first two rounds made Bemidji State – the small university located in a northern Minnesota town better known for its place in the Paul Bunyan legend – the darlings of the Frozen Four, much as George Mason was at basketball’s Final Four three years ago. The borrowed pep band even played a chorus or two of “Livin’ on a Prayer” – GMU’s unofficial theme song of 2006.
Had the Beavers not been here, Miami would have carried the banner for the underdogs. The RedHawks, who not long ago used to call themselves the Redskins, come from Oxford, Ohio. Only one Division I hockey school – Alabama-Huntsville – is further south. Oxford’s population of 22,000 could almost squeeze into the Verizon Center, although Bemidji’s 14,000 or so would fit with room to spare.
Tommy Wingels, Alden Hirschfeld and Bill Loupee all found the net during the second-period barrage, scoring more goals against Bemidji State in 7 minutes than the Beavers allowed in the first two rounds, when they shocked the college hockey world by beating Notre Dame and Cornell.
Wingels also had an empty-net goal in the third. Freshman goalie Cody Reichard made 24 saves for the RedHawks.
Both schools were not only in the Frozen Four for the first time, but both were No. 4 seeds in the regionals – the lowest rung of the 16-team tournament. As might be expected from the newcomers, the first period was more of a shake-the-nevres, feeling-out process than anything else. There were no goals and just two penalties
Wingels started the scoring by beating goalie Matt Dalton stickside from the left circle early in the second period. The goal ended a streak of 10 consecutive successful penalty kills for the Beavers.
Wingels then supplied the backhand just-in-front-of-the-crease pass to Hirschfeld to make the score 2-0, and the school that brought its own pep band suddenly had by far the loudest cheering section.
Matt Read pulled Bemidji State within one with a power-play goal about a minute later, but Loupee restored the two-goal lead a minute later when he camped next to the crease and got his stick on the puck, deflecting it off a sprawling Dalton and into the net.