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Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore gives instruction from the bench during practice Thursday at Nielson Reise Arena. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Serratore: 'This isn't just about BSU hockey - it's about everyone else'

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Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Four days after capping a magical run through the NCAA Midwest Regional, the major impact of the Bemidji State men's hockey team advancing to the Frozen Four is being realized.

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And it's about a lot more than just a hockey team advancing in a national tournament.

BSU head coach Tom Serratore and the Beavers hockey world has been turned upside down. A bombardment of media requests, e-mails and phone calls shows this accomplishment goes way beyond college hockey, Serratore said during a break Thursday afternoon.

Make that kind of a break -- the ever-present cell phone was within easy reach and a newspaper reporter waited his turn -- while a photographer was busily snapping up Serratore's every move.

"This has a big impact on the university, the community, the region and the state," Serratore said. "To me, it shows why the BSU hockey program and the Bemidji Regional Event Center are so important.

"You can't put a price tag on the exposure this has generated. Why shouldn't we have the opportunity to do this like other communities?"

Look at where the stories been splashed in just the last few days, Serratore continued -- the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Tony Bruno radio, ESPN radio, KFAN and a Minnesota Wild game, just to name a few.

The bottom line is this story has been bringing major exposure to the university, community and the region.

Beyond the national exposure, advancing to the Frozen Four has provided ownership to the community in the university and the Bemidji State hockey program.

"When you hear the pride in the voices of all the people who have called and see it in the faces of people around town you realize this isn't just about BSU hockey -- it's about everyone else," Serratore reported. "It's about the pride that is felt by the community and region. You wouldn't believe the phone calls and messages I've gotten from people I don't even know.

The impact on Bemidji will never fade. It will last a long, long time."

Year after year Serratore and area hockey fans have watched from the sidelines as teams have advanced through the national tournament and on to the Frozen Four. Watching from afar, people can imagine what it must be like to accomplish such a goal.

But imagining what it's like pales in comparison to reality.

"You really can't explain the enormity of it until it happens," Serratore said. "It is so difficult to get this far -- to win two games like we did in the regional, it's very hard.

"Think about it -- Boston University is one of the premier programs in the country. They haven't been to a Frozen Four since 1997. St. Cloud State has never been there, Minnesota State-Mankato has one NCAA tournament appearance; UMD has been to the Frozen Four two times (1984, 2004). That puts it in perspective."

The road to the pinnacle event is easier for the major programs, but very hard for mid-majors -- like Bemidji State and the majority of college hockey teams.

"You typically see the same teams in the Frozen Four year in, year out -- maybe there is one oddball thrown in from time to time. There are hardly ever two new ones, like this year."

Then there is the great sense of accomplishment -- not just for the players and coaches, but the larger community.

"It gives people an opportunity to reflect on the days when they went to BSU," Serratore said. "It gives people the opportunity to reconnect to the community and the university. It gives people from other communities the opportunity to believe that if it can happen to Bemidji, it can happen to their town, that their turn is coming."

How good is this for the game, for college hockey?

"It can inspire other programs and have them believe if BSU can get this far why can't they," Serratore said. "It brings a sense of excitement to the other programs -- if Bemidji did it, it can happen for us as well."

The limelight will continue to shine, along with the glaring media spotlight, for another week until the big event begins.

The Beavers are set to square off against Miami of Ohio in the first Frozen Four semifinal in Washington, D.C., Thursday at 4 p.m. The second will feature Boston University against Vermont at 7 p.m. The championship game is set for Saturday, April 11.

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