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Bemidji State's Orlando Alamano is greeted by fans as he leaves Bemidji Regional Airport early Monday morning. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Beatlemania, Bemidji style: Nearly 100 people turn out at airport to welcome home Beavers at 2 a.m.

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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The Bemidji State men's hockey team was welcomed home with a festive celebration early Monday morning at Bemidji Regional Airport.

The Beavers, fresh off a 4-1 win over Cornell that earned a berth in the Frozen Four, were greeted by nearly 100 fans and well-wishers at 2 a.m.

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Among those at the impromptu rally were Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann, Bemidji State University President Jon Quistgaard and Bemidji State University Vice President Bill Maki.

The Bemidji State women's hockey team tossed around green and white balloons and displayed banners that read "Frozen 4" and "D.C. Bound."

The Frozen Four will be held in Washington D.C. on April 9 and 11.

The women's hockey team was also joined by members of the BSU women's soccer team, the BSU football team and several fans who just wanted to show their support.

Vance Balstad, the rink manager and Zamboni driver at John Glas Fieldhouse, was there.

The group started small, with about 20 waiting in the chilly March air shortly after 1 a.m. But a steady stream of cars turned at the lights on Highway 2 and parked in the Airport lot - some staying in their vehicles to keep warm.

By 2 a.m., the group swelled to about 100.

The fans broke out into a cheer as the plane descended to the runway and one man standing on top of a garbage can led the group in a continuous "D! C!" chant.

The football team led the group by singing the Bemidji State fight song.

As the players exited the plane, about half the group rushed over to the fence on the west side of the building to cheer and scream in a scene that could best be described as Beatlemania on a Bemidji scale.

A handful of the fans held homemade signs high. One read "Go Beavers! You Made it to The Frozen Four!" Another read "#1 Go Beavs" - with the green words spray painted on broken down cardboard.

While the players waited for their baggage, Doug Leif taped up two large paper logos on the windows by the sliding doors - one Cornell and the other Notre Dame.

The fans immediately booed. Within seconds a pair of fans ripped the logos down, tore them up and threw the pieces into the air like confetti.

Bemidji State goalie Matt Dalton was the first player to exit through the west doors of the Airport, where he was nearly tackled and kissed by his girlfriend.

The fans lined up in two rows on each side of the automatic doors and the players streamed out between them, one-by-one, to a series of high-fives and hugs.

Head coach Tom Serratore was the last to leave the building and he was quickly greeted with a handshake and hug from former BSU coach Bob Peters.

Serratore then shook hands and mingled with the well-wishers for the next 20 minutes and posed for a few photographs.

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