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The national spotlight is shining on Bemidji State University after its men's hockey team secured a spot in the Frozen Four. BSU officials say the national attention is positive for the university. (Monte Draper/Bemidji Pioneer)

Bemidji State University gets national attention

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BEMIDJI - With its men's hockey team headed to the Frozen Four in Washington, D.C., next week, the national spotlight is shining on Bemidji State University.

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University officials say the national attention is positive.

"It's really good for us," BSU President Jon Quistgaard said.

The Beavers made history Sunday in the NCAA Division I hockey tournament as they defeated Cornell University 4-1 to clinch their first-ever appearance in the Frozen Four, a four-team tournament that decides the national champion. The Beavers defeated Notre Dame 5-1 Saturday in the first round of the Midwest Regional.

BSU will play Miami (Ohio) University April 9 at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C.

News of the Beavers' wins has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and ESPN, among other media sources.

Quistgaard said he has been receiving e-mails from around the United States and Canada congratulating the team and university on the success.

"It's just fun to see this level of excitement that is occurring around the country," he said.

He said the team's accomplishment is creating increased visibility not only for BSU hockey, but for the university and the community of Bemidji.

He said the visibility will make a difference for BSU, whether in recruitment, reputation, fundraising or the pride of BSU's friends and alumni. It's early, and the university probably won't feel the full effect for some time, he added.

Other BSU officials also noted the national attention and excitement.

"We're thrilled," said Lisa Erwin, vice president for student development and enrollment at BSU.

Right now, she said, it is too early to tell what impact the national attention will have on enrollment. At this time, the university will continue with its recruiting and retention strategies, she said.

"Our strategies speak to recruiting students to our fine academic programs and other activities," Erwin said.

Rob Bollinger, executive director of the BSU Foundation, said community members, alumni and other supporters are swelling up with pride because of the national attention and excitement surrounding the men's hockey team's success.

"It's just all positive," he said.

He said he believes the pride that is deepening among alumni will impact giving for all fundraising efforts at BSU, including the hockey program.

While hockey alumni's support for the program is already strong, he said he anticipates it will grow even stronger.

"It will bring it to a higher level just because of the attention," Bollinger said.

Additionally, he said the excitement and attention may spur BSU alumni in general to support the university and become reconnected with it.

Bollinger also said the Beavers' trip to the Frozen Four is good timing for building support locally and regionally for the transition into the new Bemidji Regional Event Center in the 2010-2011 season and for the effort to gain member status for the BSU men's hockey team into the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

BSU hockey will be the anchor tenant of the event center.

Meanwhile, the WCHA executive committee is expected this month to vote whether to allow the men's hockey team entrance into the league.

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