Pannek contributes early in college career

Forward Kelly Pannek has the potential to solve some of Minnesota’s scoring woes, even though she is only a freshman.

Minnesota freshman Kelly Pannek plays against Penn State on Oct. 3, 2014, at Ridder Arena.

Photo courtesy of Eric Miller/Gopher Athletics

Minnesota freshman Kelly Pannek plays against Penn State on Oct. 3, 2014, at Ridder Arena.

Grant Donald

After the Gophers came away from their last game without a single goal, the need for more scoring threats became apparent.

Forward Kelly Pannek has the potential to solve some of Minnesota’s scoring woes, even though she is only a freshman.

“When you get recruited somewhere as a forward, they obviously see you filling [a scoring role],” Pannek said. “I think everyone is looking forward to adding to the offense.”

Pannek has tallied six points over the course of the early season, leading all Gophers freshmen in that category. Over the course of her last four games, Pannek has recorded five of her six points, including her first collegiate goal.

“I think [Pannek] is getting more and more comfortable every game,” head coach Brad Frost said. “She’s got such great hands and excellent vision.”

Pannek is no stranger to scoring goals. Last year, she recorded 88 points, including 34 goals for state runner-up Benilde-St. Margaret’s.

Pannek was a finalist for the Minnesota Ms. Hockey award, but Gophers teammate and friend Sydney Baldwin beat her.

“We kind of have a few jokes about Ms. Hockey, but [Baldwin] definitely deserved [the award],” Pannek said. “Trust me, I don’t let her live it down. I got to hold her to that high standard at all times.”

While Pannek didn’t win the Ms. Hockey award, she did win the 2013 Ms. Soccer award after leading Benilde to back-to-back state titles.

Since she was one of the best hockey and soccer players in Minnesota, the decision of which sport to play in college wasn’t easy for Pannek.

“Early in the summer of my junior year, I made the decision to play hockey [in college],” Pannek said. “After looking at all the schools, it was pretty easy to choose [Minnesota].”

Once she got to campus, Pannek said it took her a little bit of time to adjust to college hockey.

“College hockey is much more of a complete game — you have to play offense and defense each shift,” Pannek said. “Each game, I get more confident in what I’m doing.”

Pannek said she looks up to junior forward Hannah Brandt, who holds the Gophers record for points scored by a rookie.

“I remember being in Kelly’s position as a freshman. [It’s] scary being a center,” Brandt said. “I see a lot of similarities [in our games] because we both are playmakers [who] like to see the ice well.”

Frost also said he sees similarities between Brandt and Pannek, but it will take time for Pannek to reach the quality of play Brandt puts forth.

“Obviously, Hannah is a world-class player, so to put that on Kelly is unfair at this point in her career,” Frost said. “Hannah increased her game speed throughout the years; that is what Kelly needs to do as well.”

Right now, the Gophers don’t need Pannek to perform at a world-class level — they just need her to score goals.

“As forwards, it is our job to put the puck in the net,” Pannek said. “Getting that first [goal] was nice, but I [have] to keep it going.”