Gophers women’s hockey earn sweep over Bulldogs

Kelly Pannek scored her 100th career point in Saturday’s game.

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.

Tommy Sletten

The Gophers nearly let a conference sweep slip away Saturday afternoon, until Sarah Potomak stepped in.

The sophomore forward scored with just over a minute remaining in overtime to help seal a Minnesota victory over Minnesota-Duluth for the second consecutive game.

“I don’t really worry about that,” Potomak said. “I just try to put it in the net as best as I can, and I was happy to get the win.”

No. 3 Minnesota (5-1-0, 3-1-0 WCHA) saw success over the weekend with a close sweep over in-state rivals No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth (3-2-1, 2-2-0 WCHA). The Gophers won 4-3 Friday and 3-2 in overtime Saturday at Ridder Arena.

Despite Friday’s victory, Minnesota struggled offensively early in Saturday’s game. The Gophers outshot the Bulldogs 19-6 in the first period, but found themselves trailing 2-1.

The second period was marred by Minnesota penalties, but the Gophers managed to kill them all to keep the Bulldogs off the board for the entirety of the period.

Minnesota, however, couldn’t generate any offense either.

“We were trying to stay out of the box as much as we could, but we were getting called, so we were just trying to stick together,” Potomak said. “Those things are going to happen and it’s how we respond as a team, and I thought we responded really well.”

The third period was crunch time for the Gophers as they were still down one goal.

That hunger led to a game-tying power play goal from junior forward Kelly Pannek, her first of the season.

The goal also marked Pannek’s 100th point with Minnesota.

“It was pretty cool,” Pannek said. “Just to be on a list with really special players who have done that, it’s pretty cool.”

Minnesota pressed on but was unable to break through, so the game headed to overtime.

“It was one of those nights where standing on the bench in overtime, [I was] just thinking, regardless of what happens, how proud we are of our team for the way they battled and gutted it out,” said head coach Brad Frost. “Obviously we carried the play and had a lot of great chances. It was just a matter of finding a way to get that puck in the net.”

Potomak found the net for the game-winner in familiar fashion — she had also closed out Friday’s game for Minnesota.

She scored two goals to lead the Gophers while senior defenseman and captain Lee Stecklein had two assists.

Both teams used penalties to their advantage and tallied two power play goals each. The squads had 22 penalty minutes combined.

Minnesota’s freshmen led the way in the first period as defenseman Patti Marshall and forward Lindsay Agnew both scored to put the Gophers up 2-1.

Minnesota-Duluth continued to pressure Minnesota in the second period and tied the game 3-3.

The Gophers needed a spark in the third period that came from Potomak, who netted the game-winner with 5:40 remaining to put the game away and hand Minnesota-Duluth its first loss of the season.

“This was such a gritty effort tonight from our team,” Frost told reporters Friday. “To beat obviously a very good team like Duluth the way we did was great.”