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March 15, 2009 E-MAIL PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bemidji State Punches Ticket

Defeats Robert Morris in CHA Championship Game

CHN Staff Report

BEMIDJI, Minn. — College Hockey America may be heading toward it own demise, but none of that mattered to the teams fighting for this year's CHA championship and automatic NCAA tournament bid.

Robert Morris, looking for its first NCAA bid, upset Niagara on Friday, and extended the host Bemidji State Pioneers well into overtime.

But the Beavers — who unlike RMU don't yet have a future home — channeled the experience of the past, and outlasted the Colonials to reach the NCAAs for the first time since 2006.

It was Matt Read, scoring his second goal of the game, 8:05 into the extra session, that sent the hometown fans into a frenzy.

"Read wins the faceoff and Ryan (Adams) actually got the puck through — Read attacked the net and gets the rebound," BSU coach Tom Serratore said. "It was an effort-based goal and it was exciting to win this game in front of our fans. ... Being able to do this at home just
makes it that much more sweeter."

Said Read, "I won the faceoff pretty clean. I noticed their center just stayed there so I went to the net. I was just hoping the puck would hit the net. I saw it hit the net and it came to me again; I saw open net and slid it in."

The Beavers, who have a history of making things difficult for the big boys in the NCAAs, made it through an up-and-down season, ultimately finishing in first place.

"I always say there are three seasons in one," Serratore said. "There is a time of the season where you can’t do anything right, where everything is clicking, and a time where you are 50-50. It was a very difficult start to the year, but the guys responded. We got better and started playing the type of hockey we wanted to play."

Robert Morris — which is headed to Atlantic Hockey in two years — got on the board first, getting a goal from Ron Cramer just 3:53 in.

All of a sudden, the Colonials, which defeated Niagara the night before after not having beaten it all season, had every reason to believe.

"Our guys just never quit (this season), and (freshman goaltender) Brooks Ostergard has been phenomenal in that sense, because again tonight they all believed in each other and believed in what the coaching staff was working towards," RMU coach Derek Schooley said. "I really realized how proud I was of my team when I walked off the ice yesterday. I had to stop for an interview and I wasn’t able to hear the guys sing our fight song. It really hit me then how much fun we were having while winning and when you have that much success you really don’t want it to end."

Bemidji State scored with 30 seconds left in the first period, then Read scored his first of the game at 14:08 of the second period to give the Beavers the lead.

But again, RMU hung in and got the tying goal late in the second period.

"We killed off a lot of penalties in the third period and we had gutsy effort," Schooley said. "It was a heck of a hockey game and whoever won that game was going to pay the price. It wasn’t going to be an easy goal that would win it. It was going to be a scramble or a bounce and unfortunately for us during championship games we have been on the wrong side of these overtimes."

Robert Morris also lost the championship game in overtime to Alabama-Huntsville in 2007.

Bemidji State had a 40-31 shot edge.

"The way the game started we were playing well, it was interesting how we responded to the first goal — we responded and got a goal of our own," said BSU goalie Matt Dalton. "It was a hard-fought game — you have to give credit to Robert Morris because they played really well. It could have been anyone’s game."

Bemidji State will play a top seed in the NCAAs, perhaps Boston University out East somewhere. For now, and despite everything hanging over their head, the Beavers will revel in the moment.

"It is a special group of guys. We have been through a lot this year," said senior captain Travis Winter. "When you face adversity like that you either die or you come together — we decided to come together. We have a great freshman class that bought in right away. We have good upperclassmen and great leadership. Altogether it is a special group."
 

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