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Hockey Day Minnesota 2019: Hometown boy makes good for Bemidji State

Senior defenseman scores overtime goal Friday night to lift Beavers over Michigan Tech in front of a packed crowd, filled with familiar faces

by Dan Myers @MNWildScribe / Wild.com

BEMIDJI -- Forgive Dillon Eichstadt for the momentary lapse in memory. 

For a kid who grew up playing just a stone's throw away from the Hockey Day Minnesota rink on the shores of Lake Bemidji, scoring the winning goal, as a senior, for your hometown team, playing outside, in front of your hometown fans ... well, it just doesn't get much better than that.

Eichstadt's goal 3:05 into overtime lifted the host Beavers to a 4-3 win over Michigan Tech University in front of a packed house on Friday night. 

With more than 4,000 tickets were sold, and with seats few and far between at puck drop -- even with temps in the teens below zero -- there was no shortage of familiar faces watching the hometown boy.

"He's the mayor," said Beavers goaltender Zach Driscoll, putting his hand on Eichstadt's shoulder. "This guy knows everybody."

Eichstadt, the Beavers' captain, grew up playing hockey less than a mile from the rink's location at Nymore Outdoor Rink. 

He would go on to play at Bemidji High School and three years of junior hockey before returning home to Bemidji, where he's had a steady career patrolling the Beavers' blue line. 

BSU coach Tom Serratore graduated from Bemidji State and is in his 18th season behind the bench ... he knows what hockey means to people in this town and what the Hockey Day celebration means right now.

You couldn't wipe the smile off his face if you tried.

"It's obviously a unique event to host and our I think our fans really embraced it," Serratore said. "This is what small-town hockey is all about."

For a small-town boy like Eichstadt, with the Bemidji water tower in the distance and the cars piled up on the lake just a few steps away from the boards, Friday night's game -- and Friday night's finish -- provided Eichstadt with a moment he said he'll never forget.

Even if he can't entirely remember it.

"To be able to, as a senior, to have this opportunity," Eichstadt said, his voice trailing away. "Pretty cool moment."

Driscoll, who was the first to meet his teammate at center ice after the winning goal, forgave Eichstadt's snub: He appeared ready for a big hug before changing his mind last minute. 

Driscoll just laughed.

"He deserves this," he said.

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