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Pioneer Editorial: Bemidji State win seals credibility

How sweet it is!

Bemidji State University's 5-1 upset of Notre Dame on Saturday night in NCAA Division I hockey is perhaps the most important win in Bemidji State's lustrous hockey history.

The Beavers, on their third trip to the NCAA DI playoffs, won their first playoff game Saturday night, setting up tonight's Midwest Regional final against Cornell at Grand Rapids, Mich.

Saturday's game was historic. Bemidji State, a small school in a small league with an automatic bid by virtue of winning the CHA title, defeated the reigning national champion runnerup. Notre Dame was also the top seed for the Midwest Region and the second ranked team of the 16 teams in the NCAA tournament. Bemidji State, unranked nationally, is the 16th seed of the 16 teams and the fourth seed of the Midwest Region.

Bemidji State's hockey history is incredible, with seven NAIA national championship titles, one NCAA Division III national championship and five NCAA Division II national titles. Bemidji fans will remember the Beavers' first NCAA Division II title in 1984 when the team ended with a perfect 31-0 record. BSU had long established itself prior to this weekend's NCAA Division I playoffs.

But Saturday's win puts Bemidji State in a class of its own, winning its first playoff game at that level. It gives the hometown team national credibility among "the big boys" in college hockey, and convincingly at that with a 5-1 pasting.

The Bemidji State hockey program has needed much recently to move in that elite level of college hockey, including a new rink. That will come with construction of the Bemidji Regional Event Center of which Bemidji State's men's and women's hockey programs are anchor tenants. Next is a move to another league, with the CHA disbanding after next year.

Bemidji State's application to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, easily one of the nation's most prestigious college hockey league, will be considered in late April. Entry into the WCHA is seen as crucial for Bemidji State hockey's future in the new event center, which will see groundbreaking ceremonies this Friday.

The Beavers' commanding playoff win over defending national champion Notre Dame will give Bemidji State the national credibility it needs to convince any WCHA representative that the Beavers do indeed belong in the WCHA. The Beavers' application for membership got the best reference it could with a NCAA Division I playoff win.

Even greater would be a win tonight over Cornell, placing Bemidji State in the Frozen Four at Washington, D.C. But regardless of the outcome tonight, Bemidji State has already made its mark in major college hockey circles.

Good luck, Beavers!