For a Bemidji State fan in the nation’s capital, the sights and sounds must have been awe-inspiring.
Said to a fan wearing an Alaska Anchorage jersey and a North Dakota hat: “Hey WCHA! Root for the Beavers!”
A sign near the Bemidji State student section: “SIOUX FOR BEAVERS”
Another sign: “Every Single Playoffs Needs a Cinderella” (written in vertical order for ESPN to show it on TV, of course).
So were the stories.
The George Mason University pep band, the Green Machine, adopted the Beavers as its own, wearing Bemidji State t-shirts and supporting BSU through music.
The Beavers were the adopted team for a city hosting the Frozen Four whose host school lacks a Division I hockey program and with no other college hockey school nearby.
D.C. locals saw Bemidji’s story and compared it to the story of one of their own, the aforementioned George Mason, and GMU’s run during basketball’s Final Four just a few years prior.
That, added to the fact that everyone loves a Cinderella, and it’s no surprise that three-quarters of the Verizon Center was cheering for BSU during Thursday night’s semifinal, even though they may not all have been wearing green.
The support was shown anecdotally, too, as almost all of the merchandising stands were completely sold out of the Bemidji-specific t-shirts and almost entirely sold out of the Bemidji hats by the start of the third period.
Miami, Vermont and Boston University merchandise could still be found, as well as the general Frozen Four items with all four teams or just the logo, but the tournament darlings? Nothing.
As good as the story was, though, it didn’t have enough substance to propel it. Despite the buzz around the Beavers leading up to the event, it wasn’t reflected in the way of overwhelming fan support during the actual game’s atmosphere.
The Green Machine tried to rile the Beaver faithful with eight minutes left in the third and BSU down 3-1 by breaking out Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin,'” but by that point, the clock was ticking down on Cinderella.
When Tommy Wingels potted an empty-netter with just over two minutes remaining, it was clear that the most accurate sign in the building belonged to a group of Miami fans on the upper deck:
“Hey Cinderella — It’s Midnight.”
Still, Bemidji fans left the building with their heads held high after a game well played, thoughts of next season’s uncertain future far from their minds, proud of how their Cinderella team from college hockey’s smallest conference performed on the nation’s largest stage.