Jared Rubado: Rubado Column: Contemplating the hard truths of destiny in sports

Mar. 26—It's hard for fans not to get bogged down in the potential of a season when everything is going your way. The same goes when you're covering a team.

The Bemidji State men's hockey team went 47 days without losing a game until last Friday's Mason Cup championship at the Sanford Center. Yet, in a do-or-die contest, the Beavers finished on the wrong side of a 2-1 result, meaning the near seven-week unbeaten run and the 2023-24 season came to an abrupt end.

It was a sobering reality for a fanbase that was coordinating viewing plans for the NCAA Tournament, and rightfully so. When you watch a team go through the waves of an emotional, injury-riddled and ultimately triumphant season, the thought of losing becomes more faint each time the winning streak extends.

However, the perception of a team's fate or destiny is always two-sided. Someone else always has something to say about it. This time that someone was Michigan Tech.

The Huskies spoiled one of the Sanford Center's greatest parties to win the Mason Cup, earning the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Huskies will represent the CCHA in Providence, R.I., on Friday against top-ranked Boston College instead of Bemidji State.

Maybe it's their destiny instead.

On a national level, BSU can be perceived as the little engine that could. Tucked into the woods of northern Minnesota, the oft-misspelled school competes against college hockey's institutional juggernauts. It's the plucky underdog the layman fan can get behind, even when they're not the underdog.

MTU was the overwhelming choice to win the CCHA in the preseason by the league's media and coaches. It trudged through the highs and lows before coming out on the other side with the third seed in the Mason Cup playoffs.

Michigan Tech survived a chaotic Game 2 against Bowling Green to sweep the Falcons in the quarterfinal round. Then, it was the beneficiary of all the bounces in the semifinal round against Minnesota State.

In a season marred with peaks, valleys, and even some controversy, the Huskies came out on the other side with a chance to play for what they were tabbed to achieve before the season started.

Regardless of Friday night's outcome, either victorious fanbase would've felt like a team of destiny heading into the NCAA Tournament, while the other walks away wondering what could've been if those 60 minutes played out differently.

I wholeheartedly thought Bemidji State would find the tying goal down 2-1 in the third period. How could I not? The Beavers found it every other time while they piled up win after win. But despite the deflation that came with the loss, it would be irresponsible to say the 2023-24 season was anything but a success.

The Beavers raised the MacNaughton Cup — college hockey's oldest trophy — for the second time in program history. They also racked up CCHA awards, including a bevy of year-long honors for players like Kyle Looft, Jackson Jutting, Mattias Sholl, Eric Pohlkamp and Lleyton Roed. They handled adversity like a solvable challenge instead of a permanent setback.

But more importantly, Bemidji State showcased a team capable of bringing a community together. Even if it was just for one night, the college hockey world had its eyes on Bemidji, and the capacity crowd at the Sanford Center showed out. It would've taken a doctor to surgically remove the goosebumps I had on Friday night.

Head coach Tom Serratore shared the sentiment.

"I want to make sure we thank our fans," he said after the game. "What a night it was. What a memory for the players, for the alumni, for the coaching staff. This environment was so special. ... It was just one of those games where they made one more play than us. I'm proud of our guys and proud of our effort."