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Bemidji State men's hockey: Beavers go back to work, get a visit from former North Star Gary Sargent

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After a dizzying few days of media frenzy from local, state regional and national news outlets, the Bemidji State men's hockey team got back to business in earnest Saturday.

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The Beavers actually hit the ice for the first time Wednesday after qualifying for the Frozen Four. But constant requests for interviews both before and after practice made getting too serious pretty difficult.

All that changed Saturday as the Beavers got back into the normal game week routine.

"We were able to take some time and do a good video breakdown session with the guys," said Bemidji State assistant coach Bert Gilling. "We really started preparing in earnest for the biggest game of our careers."

In a regular week where the team concludes a weekend series on a Saturday night, the team takes Sunday off and then practices hard the following three days, before hitting the road for the next series.

The 10 day layoff between the regional final and Thursday's Frozen Four semifinal against Miami allowed the Beavers to utilize basically the same schedule, albeit on different days.

There was a bit of a departure from the normal routine on Monday, however. Bemidji State alum Gary Sargent came in to give the Beavers a little pre-practice talk. Sargent, voted one the Beavers 50 greats in 50 years of the program, had an eight year NHL career with the Los Angeles Kings and the Minnesota North Stars before his playing days were cut short by injuries.

"He is such a presence," Gilling. "It was wonderful having him there. Having him at practice, hanging over the boards and talking to the guys about how proud he was of them, well, you couldn't help but get a bit of a swelled chest.

"It was very much appreciated by all of us."

It was a perfect fit for a perfect setting -- the Beavers practicing at the Neilson-Reise (City) Arena in preparation for the biggest game in program history.

The ice was taken out of the John Glas Fieldhouse in preparation for the annual Home, Sport and Travel Show -- as it is every year -- at the end of March.

The scheduling hasn't been an issue in the past. But this year, with the Beavers' impressive run through the Midwest Regional, there was a need for ice for a couple more weeks.

City Arena fit the bill just fine.

"The Home, Sport and Travel show is a very important event for the community each year," said Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore. "For us to practice at the City Arena is a small price to pay.

"The arena also has a great history. The Bemidji community came together to build the arena in the late 1960s and we have no problem skating here now, preparing for the Frozen Four.

"It's kind of like we all have come full circle. The arena has served the community well for 40 years, holding thousands of practices, games and scrimmages at every level of hockey. Now we're here to get ready for the biggest game in the history of the BSU hockey program.

"It's a pretty neat deal."

Today is a travel day for the Beavers as the team takes off the Frozen Four in Washington, D.C. about 2:30 p.m. The team will hit the ice of the Verizon Center on Wednesday for a full one hour practice in preparation for Thursday's Frozen Four semifinal game against Miami at 4 p.m.

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