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PIONEER PERSPECTIVES: Inside the press box at two unforgettable Bemidji State hockey games

As a sports journalist, there are certain times when the moment overwhelms any chance of remaining completely calm and collected. I was fortunate enough to experience two moments like that this past hockey season.

Christian Babcock mug.jpg
Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Pioneer.
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In journalism school, they teach you to be objective.

It’s generally a good idea for any journalist to maintain control over their emotions when covering an event, the better to avoid being biased in their reporting and clouded in their judgment.

But as a sports journalist, there are certain times when the moment overwhelms any chance of remaining completely calm and collected. I was fortunate enough to experience two moments like that this past hockey season.

The first came on fifth-year senior night for the Bemidji State women’s hockey team at the Sanford Center. On that Friday night in February, BSU faced No. 2 Ohio State — the team that went on to win the national championship in March.

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Bemidji State goalie Kerigan Dowhy (33) makes a save late in the third period against Ohio State on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Needless to say, the Buckeyes were a more than formidable opponent. Yet the Beavers managed to hang around, preserving a 2-2 tie with precious few seconds left.

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Looking for a regulation win to earn the WCHA regular-season championship, OSU made the bold move to pull goaltender Amanda Thiele prior to an offensive zone faceoff. It nearly paid off, but if you followed BSU women’s hockey at all this year, you likely know what happened next.

Goaltender Kerigan Dowhy stopped an Ohio State shot attempt sight unseen with a kick save on the goal line, and Paige Beebe whipped a shot off the kick and down the ice into the empty net with 0.3 seconds left.

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The Beavers celebrate after senior Paige Beebe (18) scored an empty-net goal to defeat No. 2 Ohio State 3-2 on Friday, Feb. 11, 2022, at the Sanford Center.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

You may know that part. Here’s what you don’t know.

As Beebe’s shot slid across the rink toward the OSU goal line, nearly everyone in the press box — including this humble scribe — stood up. When it crossed the line, absolute pandemonium ensued. I’m not ashamed to say I spiked the knitted hat I was wearing to the ground — not in celebration, but in disbelief.

Running on pure adrenaline, I somehow then had to put what I just saw into words. It was an awesome responsibility, and one that took several days — in addition to my standard postgame recap , I did an additional story on the making of the kick-and-flick score/play .

At that point, it seemed nothing could top that moment this season. And while I’d argue that it remains the best individual moment of this year's Bemidji State hockey season, another game's overall craziness exceeded that night in Bemidji.

That would be the men’s hockey team’s Mason Cup Championship loss, then restart, then loss again against No. 1-ranked and eventual national finalist Minnesota State in Mankato in March.

Just like the women’s team, the Beaver men hung tough with a formidable opponent through 60 minutes, in their case sending the game to overtime. That’s when things got weird.

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Three minutes into the extra session, Josh Groll scored a goal to give the Mavericks the championship. Or so we thought.

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Minnesota State’s Josh Groll (12) wraps around Bemidji State goalie Mattias Sholl (30) for what was called the game-winning goal until it was later reviewed by CCHA officials in the Mason Cup Championship game on Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mankato.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

After the championship trophy was handed out on the ice, we journalists headed to the press room. Once I got there, I started to hear rumblings that the goal may not have been legitimate. BSU head coach Tom Serratore was discussing it with CCHA commissioner Don Lucia, and they were studiously examining the video recording of the play.

Our photographer Jillian Gandsey had a bird's-eye view of the proceedings from her perch in the photographers’ workspace, and she kept me posted.

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Kevin Langseth, director of officiating for the CCHA, points out the disputed goal to Bemidji State head coach Tom Serratore and Minnesota State coach Mike Hastings at the CCHA Mason Cup Championship game on Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Mankato.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

It eventually became clear that the game would likely restart , so all the other journalists covering the game and I made our way back to the press box and readied for the game to start again. When it did, over an hour after its first conclusion, Jack McNeely scored within just over two minutes to once again give MSU the win.

And yet again, I had to figure out a way to encapsulate the totality of what had transpired in the last four or so hours. Somehow I managed , but it was a grind unlike any other.

This job affords me a front-row seat to incredible games, it’s true. But the reason sports reporters get paid to watch games — and not the other way around — is that afterward, we have to concisely explain what happened. It’s not always easy, but it’s definitely worth it — and I’ve been lucky to witness multiple indelible sports moments in the same season.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Pioneer. Readers can reach him at (218) 333-9787 or cbabcock@bemidjipioneer.com.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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