March 29, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Bemidji State Adds to Weekend of Stunners

Topple Notre Dame For First-Ever D-I NCAA Win

CHN Staff Report

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — For all the upset wins, the miracle finishes, and drama of this year's NCAA tournament so far — no result, by itself, has been as shocking as Bemidji State's 5-1 dismantling of Notre Dame on Saturday evening in the Midwest Regional.

With all due respect to the Beavers' near-misses, such as the one against Denver in the 2005 NCAAs, and knowing full well what Air Force did to Michigan, this was eye-popping. Bemidji State took a team in Notre Dame, flying high all season long, fresh off walloping Michigan itself in the CCHA championship game — and took it apart.

"Let's face facts. Almost every team that's won in the tournament this weekend has had two weeks to prepare," Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said, pointing out an oddity so far.

It's true, with Miami and Vermont both advancing to the Frozen Four after having lost league tournament quarterfinal series. Bemidji State was off for a different reason, with its conference, CHA, having its tournament a week early.

"I don't know if it helps you or it hurts you," BSU coach Tom Serratore said. "Of course when we do well you can say that had something to do with it. The thing it did do, we had two guys who didn't play in our championship game two weeks ago, and they had time to heal up."

It was the first NCAA tournament win in Division I, although the Bemidji State program has a long history in other classifications.

"We're the winningest program in college hockey, and that does carry over," Serratore said. "Our players are very proud."

But Bemidji State accomplished this amid a cloud of uncertainty over its future, and perhaps this win takes on higher meaning as a result. The CHA will disband after next year, and next season's automatic NCAA bid is in question. Where Bemidji State will land after that, if anywhere, is up in the air.

"I hope we'll get our automatic bid next year. It would be a travesty if we didn't," Serratore said. "Our kids and our programs have done nothing to put ourselves in that situation. I hope the powers that be recognize that and give us one more year of an automatic bid."

Clearly, Bemidji State has shown it belongs.

"Right from the very beginning they created turnovers that cost us opportunities," Jackson said. "It's always challenging. You know I don't know how many times I got asked this week, 'Who's Bemidji State?' I think everyone knows now. I knew they were going to be a very tough opponent, and I obviously didn't prepare our team enough."

Bemidji State likes to be a puck pressure team. The question was whether it could do so against a veteran-laden Notre Dame squad, one year removed from playing in the NCAA championship game.

"We've got to get on them right away," said BSU's Travis Winter. "Lucky things happen sometimes, and you've got to be prepared. ... I feel like we were meant to win tonight. We pressured them a lot and executed our game plan, and I don't think they're used to that."

Notre Dame was down 2-0 in the CCHA title game to Michigan before rallying for five straight goals to win. Everyone kept waiting for that to happen again. But BSU kept adding another, and another, and then it was 4-0.

"Our best players weren't our best players tonight, and that's what you need in the NCAAs," said Notre Dame forward Erik Condra.

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