Frozen Four: It's Game Day: Beavers and their fans are ready to get it on
Scott Robbins did not expect to be in Washington, D.C., this week.
But the Bemidjian started his second tournament week with a visit to Verizon Center on Wednesday to watch the Bemidji State men's hockey team practice in preparation for today's national semifinal.
He has attended the last nine Final Four basketball tournaments and, like many, did not expect Bemidji State to be playing hockey in April.
"As soon as the Beavers beat Cornell, I started to figure out flight arrangements," said Robbins, who is a Beaver Pride member and a 1992 BSU graduate. "You know when they talk to the athletes about how they feel about all of this -- they say they can't really comprehend it. And that's kind of how I feel about all of this. It's been surreal around town and I'm just a fan."
Robbins flew from Detroit, the site of this year's Final Four, to Washington on Tuesday and watched the Beavers practice with Alan and Martha Korpi and senior Tyler Scofield's parents, Tonia and Justin.
Like Robbins with the Final Four, the Korpis have made attending the Frozen Four a tradition.
Since retiring, the Korpis have been to recent Frozen Fours in Denver and St. Louis. They booked their tickets and hotel rooms for this Frozen Four in January.
"This really is just a bonus to see the Beavers here," Alan said, adding that he never expected to see the Beavers play in a Frozen Four. "I honestly thought they would never be here. This really is wonderful. They deserve it."
The Beavers play Miami of Ohio in the national semifinal today at 4 p.m. with the winner advancing to the national championship game Saturday night to face either Boston University or Vermont.
For Scofield's parents, Thursday's game will mark only the second time they have been able to watch their son play this season. The last time was in October.
The Scofield family is from Prince George, British Columbia, and a trip to a Beavers game means flying into Winnipeg and then driving the rest of the way.
Tuesday's trip from Prince George meant a day-long journey for the Scofields, who left Canada at 6 a.m. and arrived in Washington about 9 p.m.
"It's all been a little overwhelming right now, but we are really happy that we've made it here for the tournament," said Justin, who works as a logger.
The Canadian timber industry is busiest in the winter and early spring months and "it's really hard for me to get time off of work so I told Tyler to keep playing and keep winning and we'd be able to make it," he said.
Tonia and Justin are only able to keep track of Bemidji State hockey though The Mix 103.7's online broadcasts. They had connection problems during the Midwest Regional title game and knew Bemidji was beating Cornell, but did not know who scored the goals. Bemidji State defeated Cornell 4-1 behind a pair of goals from Tyler, who was named the Midwest Regional's most valuable player.
Tonia said that people in Prince George are becoming more aware of the Beavers with the Frozen Four.
"The local newspaper has done a few stories on the guys, so if they didn't know about them, they do now," she said. "Up there, most people don't even know where Bemidji is."
When Tyler takes the ice Friday, he'll be playing with extra motivation with his parents in attendance.
"They made the long trek here and they don't get to come and see me a lot -- they took time off of work and that really means a lot to me," Tyler said. "They'll be here for my last college game and I'm hoping that's going to be on Saturday. It's just really special to have them here this weekend."
Another Bemidji State fan in attendance was George Fechik of Livonia, Mich. He sat in the front row at ice level and watched practice wearing a No. 3 Bryce Methven jersey. Methven played for the Beavers several years ago in the early days of the Division I era.
"I'm out here to support the Beavers," Fechik said. "I used to support Wayne State until they folded their hockey program. I'm just a big CHA fan and I'm sad to see that the league will be coming to an end."
Fechik said that one of the best parts about watching CHA hockey was that tickets were affordable and he could bring kids to the game.
"Wayne State was never really promoted well out there and it was great because we could go watch great hockey for just $5," Fechik said. "The CHA has good, competitive hockey."
He's resorted to watching the University of Michigan hockey team this season, but is firmly backing the Beavers in his sixth Frozen Four in the last seven seasons. He's hoping for a BSU-Boston University championship game.
"The Beavers really match up well with Miami and I don't think anything is going to surprise (the Beavers)," Fechik said. "All they need to do is bring the same intensity they did at the CHA Tournament and in the games against Notre Dame and Cornell. This is a true Cinderella story."