Miami (Ohio) Knocks Off Upstart Bemidji State
Thursday, April 9, 2009; 10:55 PM
Where's Bemidji? That's so yesterday.
Here's the latest question from the Frozen Four: Where's Miami?
Well, when it comes to hockey, it's in the Midwest.
"It certainly is not in Florida," Miami coach Enrico Blasi said. "I sure hope everybody's enjoying this back in Oxford, Ohio."
A Miami school will play for an NCAA title, and it's not the Hurricanes from down South. The RedHawks, in the first national semifinal game played by any sports team in the university's history, beat fellow upstart Bemidji State 4-1 on Thursday night to advance to the championship of the Frozen Four.
"It puts Miami on the map," left wing Justin Mercier said. "To establish ourselves as a perennial powerhouse, we need to make it to more Frozen Fours. It has to start somewhere, right?"
Stunning upsets in the first two rounds made Bemidji State -- the small university located in a northern Minnesota town better known for its place in the Paul Bunyan legend -- the darlings of the week, much as George Mason was at basketball's Final Four three years ago. GMU even loaned its "Green Machine" pep bard to the green-clad Beavers and played a chorus or two of "Livin' on a Prayer" -- Mason's unofficial theme song during the 2006 run -- in an unsuccessful attempt to rally the school's kindred spirits in the third period.
Yet, while Bemidji State had the funkier name (pronounced, as the sports world knows by now, beh-MIDGE-ee), it was Miami that had the three-goal burst in the second period that essentially settled the game.
Miami (23-12-5) will face the winner of Boston University and Vermont, who played later Thursday, in Saturday's title game. Bemidji State (20-16-1) will head home with a George Mason-like feeling -- good enough to make its sport's biggest stage, but not good enough to win once it was there.
"A lot of people were pulling for us; we knew that going into the game," BSU defenseman Cody Bostock said. "It's a feel-good story for a lot of people out there. It's something special to be a part of. You want to thank everyone out there.
"Unfortunately, tonight we came up on the wrong end, but it's been a good run. The time of a lifetime. Something I'll never forget."
Had the Beavers not been here, Miami would have been carrying the banner for the underdogs. The RedHawks, who not long ago used to call themselves the Redskins, might be best known among sports fans for producing Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Only one Division I hockey school -- Alabama-Huntsville -- is further south. Oxford's population of 22,000 could almost squeeze into the Verizon Center, although Bemidji's 14,000 or so would fit with room to spare.