Pannek leads Gophers to victory

Freshman Kelly Pannek recorded her first collegiate hat trick Monday.

Gophers forward Kelly Pannek scores a goal on St. Cloud State during the second period at Braemar Arena on Monday, Nov. 24th.

Alex Tuthil-Preus

Gophers forward Kelly Pannek scores a goal on St. Cloud State during the second period at Braemar Arena on Monday, Nov. 24th.

Grant Donald

With Gophers women’s hockey taking over a local high school arena Monday night, it’s only fitting that one of the best Minnesota prep players from last year would steal the show.

Freshman and former Benilde-St. Margaret’s star Kelly Pannek recorded her first collegiate hat trick in Minnesota’s 5-0 win over St. Cloud State at Braemar Arena in Edina.

“We were all kind of laughing going into this game saying that it reminds us of high school,” Pannek said. “We saw all the young girls out there and wanted to show them what Gopher hockey looks like.”

She started the Gophers’ scoring when her first-period snipe gave Minnesota a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

Pannek, one of last year’s finalists for the Minnesota Ms. Hockey award, didn’t have to wait long for her second goal of the night, as she deflected in a power-play goal early in the second period.

“[Kelly] hasn’t been shooting as much as we wanted [her] to, but tonight she found herself in great spots,” head coach Brad Frost said. “Every single goal was a beautiful one tonight.”

Pannek wasn’t the only player who experienced déjà vu to her high school hockey days Monday night.

With the Gophers pep band blaring to a nearly filled Braemar Arena, the game had an atmosphere similar to a major high school contest, much like the games senior Rachel Ramsey used to play in while at Minnetonka.

“It was a total flashback to high school,” Ramsey said. “To see all the girls here watching, and hopefully one day they will become Gophers, it means a lot to us.”

While the game featured two WCHA teams, the Gophers’ victory won’t count towards the WCHA standings, but it will count for their overall record.

The game was part of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Museum Women’s Faceoff Classic.

 “When we were awarded the Hall of Fame game, we thought it would be great to do something in a local rink,” Frost said last week. “As far as I know, we have never played a [home] game off campus, so it is an exciting time.”

Despite the unfamiliar grounds, Minnesota seemed to feel at home as it added two goals in the last two minutes of the second period to seal the victory.

One of those goals came from sophomore Dani Cameranesi, who was coming off a four-goal weekend against Minnesota State-Mankato.

“All year [Dani] has been arguably our most consistent player,” Frost said. “Every time she steps on the ice, she is a threat.”

Fellow sophomore Kate Schipper scored a goal in the second period and an assist in the third.

But the night belonged to Pannek, who completed her hat trick early in the third period.

“Anytime you start to score, it makes you feel more comfortable out there,” Pannek said. “Anytime your line is rolling like this, it is a good thing, and I’m excited to see what it produces in the future.”