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Bemidji State men's hockey: Beaver hockey takes another major step forward

The Bemidji State men's hockey team will be playing in its fourth NCAA Tournament in two weeks.

This time around, qualifying for the national tournament did not come with blaring headlines and nonstop national media attention.

That's because instead of winning a College Hockey America Tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament as the Beavers have done in the past, this time the Beavers played their way in by compiling an outstanding regular season record.

Despite what may have been heard to the contrary the last week or so, the Beavers are in the tournament and will receive an at-large bid come tournament selection time Sunday morning.

That's the opinion from this corner of the college hockey world, anyway, plus the thought from much greater minds who been around the game, and the selection process, for a long time.

The Beavers currently stand seventh in the Pairwise rankings, a tool that mimics the criteria used by the selection committee to determine the at-large bids. With five conferences still involved in league playdowns, there are a lot of games yet to be played.

The guess here is that BSU, who will wait and watch the remaining games unfold, will finish in the 6-10 range of the final Pairwise. That means the Beavers will enter the 2010 NCAA Men's Ice Hockey Tournament as a second or third seed.

And that, stealing a word for the Tom Serratore college hockey dictionary, is "monumental."

The selection as an at-large bid is a huge step forward for the storied Bemidji State program. Over the course of the entire season, the Beavers distinguished themselves as one of the top programs in the nation.

Think about it: BSU ended with a record of 6-2-1 against the current Pairwise teams and an overall nonconference record of 9-5-2.

Beyond that, five of the six Pairwise wins and the tie came on the road.

The Beavers endured a brutal schedule over the second half of the regular season, playing 11 of 16 games on the road - and not just little bus trips here and there.

From January to mid-March the Beavers traveled from Kalamazoo, Mich. to upstate New York to Pittsburgh to Omaha, Neb. and, finally, to Huntsville, Alabama. To top it off, the Beavers when went back to New York for the CHA Tournament at Niagara University.

Frequent flier miles, anyone?

And now the Beavers are on the cusp of being a second or third seed to the NCAA Tournament.

To be sure, the CHA Tournament did not end the way the Beavers wanted. After dominating league opposition in the regular season, BSU didn't think a loss and a tie in the playoffs were in the cards.

Hey, that's college hockey. It's something the Beavers have been saying ever since their first trip to the NCAA Tournament a few years back - anything can happen in a one game series. The Beavers had plenty of bounces go their way during the regular season; in the playoffs they did not.

Alabama-Huntsville seized the opportunity and won the CHA auto-bid in well deserved fashion.

Now the league that officially disbanded forever Saturday night will have two teams in the national tournament.


Now it's bracketology time for college hockey fans. Two internet sites -- and -- have tools in place where users can predict the final Pairwise rankings and then build their own brackets for the NCAA Tournament.

Both sites do an excellent job of explaining how the Pairwise Predictor (on USCHO) and You Are The Committee (on work.

Basically, the user selects the winners in the remaining games and the final Pairwise rankings are calculated. There are a myriad of combinations that can be used.

Once the ranking is calculated, the user can then set up there own brackets. Again, both sites explain how the selection committee goes about doing this.

Go ahead, run a few different scenarios through the predictor. See firsthand here BSU will fit into the picture.

It's fun and something interesting to do as the wait begins for Selection Sunday.