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Pioneer Editorial: WCHA: It was quite a ride for BSU

The curtain came down hard on the 2010-11 Bemidji State University men's hockey season Friday afternoon, as the Beavers lost 6-2 to the Denver Pioneers. The score, however, wasn't indicative of the play. First, goal No.6 was an empty-net goal that really doesn't portray the level of play. Second, the Beavers played well the first two periods. It was third period that got away from them, with the Pioneers scoring three other goals. But most important of all, BSU wasn't even supposed be there.

It was the semifinals of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Final Five Tournament. The season provided a number of firsts for BSU hockey, and will no doubt be one of the most memorable, right behind the Beavers' Frozen Four trip to Washington, D.C. two years ago.

It was the inaugural year for BSU's NCAA Division I men's program in the prestigious WCHA. It was a long season, with the Beavers finding it hard to gain footing early. Yet, the Beavers recovered in the second half and made a showing that they do belong in the WCHA.

They held their own against perennial WCHA powerhouse Minnesota Gophers, and then entered the WCHA playoffs doing the unthinkable for a first-year club. The team swept another new club, nationally ranked Nebraska-Omaha, taking the first two games and making a third unnecessary. Then the Beavers took the first game of the WCHA Final Five over the nationally ranked UMD Bulldogs in overtime, putting them in Friday's semifinal game against another nationally ranked team.

Also an historic year for the Beavers in the Sanford Center, a new 4,373-seat rink that elevated hockey -- WCHA hockey -- to unheard of levels in Bemidji. More than 62,000 people saw 16 home games in the new facility, an attendance putting Bemidji in the top 10 nationally among college hockey.

And the play was outstanding, with consistent playmaking by Matt Read and goaltending by Dan Bakala, and playoff heroics from Brad Hunt and Shea Walters. It was a typical Tom Serratore team, known more for its spunk than its size.

One cannot end without also noting the positive play of the BSU women's hockey team, also seeing the WCHA playoffs and providing resounding shutouts at the Sanford Center.

All in all, it was quite a ride.