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Community members gather at the airport to welcome home the Bemidji State University men's hockey team

Jacob Slough, left, MacKinzie Slough and Megan Hanson welcome the Bemidji State Beavers Friday morning at the Bemidji Regional Airport.

The green-clad crowd began to gather about 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Bemidji Regional Airport. By the time the plane landed nearly an hour later, the gathering had increased to close to 200 people equipped with Beaver Pride hankies and "I love the Beavers" signs.

All the chat was about the great season the Bemidji State University men's hockey team has had and the fun and excitement they have given the community. Bemidji State fell to Miami of Ohio 4-1 Thursday in the semifinals of the Frozen Four at Washington, D.C.

Cheers, whistles and applause greeted the players as they deplaned. By the time team members walked across the tarmac and reached the Bemidji Aviation gate, a spontaneous receiving line had formed up. Everyone wanted to shake the hands of, and some to give hugs to, the first BSU team to compete in the Frozen Four.

"I was very surprised, rally," said center Matt Read. "I didn't think there'd be a lot of people here. We love our fans."

See complete story in Saturday's Pioneer.