Pannek’s play-making proves vital for Gophers

The junior forward is currently on a team-best 17-point scoring streak.

Junior forward Kelly Pannek skates against the Lindenwood Lions on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 at Ridder Arena.

Chelsea Gortmaker, Daily File Photo

Junior forward Kelly Pannek skates against the Lindenwood Lions on Friday, Sept. 30, 2016 at Ridder Arena.

by Tommy Sletten

Kelly Pannek has always been a staple in Minnesota’s offensive corps, but this season she’s taken her scoring prowess to a new level.

Pannek is currently on a team-best, 17-point, eight-game scoring streak, and she has greatly contributed to No. 2 Minnesota’s 9-1 start in the WCHA.

“I think especially these last few weekends we’ve done really well, and it’s exciting,” Pannek said. “It’s obviously good to build on any confidence you already have.”

Pannek’s impact for the Gophers has been flourishing ever since her debut.

As a rookie she came in and scored 44 points, and upped her total to 49 as a sophomore. Both of Pannek’s full seasons with Minnesota have ended in national titles.

This year the junior forward has been promoted to a near full-time, first line forward, and she has lived up to the expectation.

Pannek has scored 22 points through 12 games and is tied for first on the team with senior forward Dani Cameranesi and sophomore forward Sarah Potomak.

Pannek was named the WCHA Player of the Week for the week of Nov. 8 after she scored two goals and six assists against Minnesota State, a catalyst for two big wins against the Mavericks at Ridder Arena.

She and her teammates see this as an extension of the team, and how well they have been playing together.

Pannek has been playing on Minnesota’s top line with her counterpart top scorers, Cameranesi and Potomak, and the trio has scored a combined 66 points.

Their consistency has been a key component to Minnesota’s success so far.

“I think it’s their chemistry. They see the ice really well. They play off one another well, but they also get the puck to the net, and in order to score goals you have to get yourself there and the puck there,” said head coach Brad Frost.

Each player of the top line has gotten equal points so far, but Pannek seems to be the playmaker of the group.

She has 17 assists so far on the season, the most of any Division I collegiate player in the country — male or female.

“Kelly is an unbelievable player, probably one of the smartest players I’ve ever played with,” Potomak said. “You give her passes and she can catch them all, or you get passes that you just don’t expect so it’s been lots of fun playing with her.”

Early in the season, however, Pannek is still focused on each series at a time, looking ahead to this weekend’s matchup at North Dakota.

“[North Dakota] just really love[s] to battle. They get after it at the boards. They’re going to try to get you frustrated and put a lot of pressure on you,” Pannek said. “It’s less of a back-and-forth; they’re maybe going to be OK with playing defense for a little bit, and we have to figure out how to turn our possession into offense.”