GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — For the Bemidji State Beavers, a little faith went a long way in Grand Rapids.
“You believe because it’s your program, it’s your team,” said BSU head coach Tom Serratore. “You know what? You just believe.”
The Beavers — the No. 16 seed overall in this year’s NCAA tournament — rode that belief to a 4-1 win over the Cornell Big Red to win the Midwest Regional final and advance to the 2009 Frozen Four.
Tournament MVP Tyler Scofield notched two goals in the historic victory, including the game-winner. Ryan Adams and Matt Francis also scored, and Matt Dalton stopped 25 as Cornell outshot BSU 26-21.
After falling behind 1-0 at the 12:35 mark in the second, the Beavers answered at 14:25 to knot the game going into the third and added three unanswered as they shut down the Big Red offense.
“It was a battle the whole game,” said Dalton. “Giving up that first goal there, I don’t know if I was nervous — I guess I was kind of a bit nervous, but I had faith in our team. Then we scored one there about a minute or two after and I was like, now, you know, they got one back for me.
“Then when Tyler scored, it was just like, ‘Oh, my gosh.’ It was just an unbelievable feeling. I knew that if we got up we could shut them down pretty good. The D have been playing pretty good lately and the forwards were backchecking unbelievably. I just knew we were going to have it.
“Once we got up, I was just confident. I knew I wasn’t going to let anything in. I knew it was just meant to happen.”
The teams exchanged a pair of faceoff goals in the second to open the scoring. At 12:35, Cornell’s Sean Collins tipped in Keir Ross’ shot from the right point after Ross took a pass back from Tyler Mugford, who’d won the faceoff in the right dot.
Then at 14:25, it was Adams at the right point from Scofield after Scofield won the draw.
At 4:05 in the third, Scofield netted the game-winner when he flew down the right wing after taking a pass from Matt Read and fired from the right dot on the fly, hitting the opposite side of the cage over Cornell goaltender Ben Scrivens’ outstretched right leg.
“Reader just kind of picked it up and just sprung me,” said Scofield. “At the last second I got over the blue line and I saw that guy going to drop and I really didn’t have any other option than let it go quick, and it just made its way into the net.”
Francis made it 3-1 at 9:30 when he picked up Read’s rebound right of the post. Read took the puck up the boards, fought his way past a Cornell defender and made a back-door attempt that Scrivens saved, leaving the puck for Francis to finish.
At 16:37, Scofield hit the early empty-netter to cement the win.
“I think we’ve done a good job when we had the lead,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “We attempted 56 shots today and they capitalized on their shots. They had  shots on net. We missed a couple of our opportunities and they did the most to capitalize on theirs.”
For the weekend, the line of Scofield, Read and Francis was responsible for six of BSU’s nine goals.
“It was a very gratifying weekend,” said Scofield. “I think our whole team played well. Playing with Matt and Matt, we’ve been playing well together. We know that we need to play better than the other team’s top line.”
The win marks the first time that a team from College Hockey America has advanced to the Frozen Four, and the first time that a No. 16 seed has survived since the NCAA went to a 16-team field in 2002.
Going into the game, Serratore said he knew what his team was facing. “Obviously we knew it was an uphill battle. I mean, who’s kidding who?”
The Beavers (20-15-1) will face the Miami RedHawks in the first semifinal of the Frozen Four in Washington, D.C., April 9.
Cornell finishes the season 22-10-4.
“I was happy with our guys,” said Schafer. “We’ve been banged up and it was a gutsy effort by a lot of guys.
“We put ourselves in an opportunity to get to the Frozen Four. It’s what you dream about as a team. I was really happy with our guys tonight.
“It just wasn’t meant to be.”