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MINNEAPOLIS — Kelly Pannek scored on a breakaway with 54 second remaining in overtime to give Minnesota a 4-3 victory and a series sweep of visiting Wisconsin.
After the game, Pannek explained how the goal almost didn’t come to fruition.
“Up until about a second before I shot it, I was looking to pass,” Pannek said. “I think that kind of made goalie [Ann-Renée Desbiens] slide over and respect Dani [Cameranesi] as that second forward in the play. Just shot it, and somehow, it went past her.”
Minnesota (29-3-1, 24-3-1-0 WCHA) ultimately lost the WCHA season title to Wisconsin (30-3-1, 24-3-1-1 WCHA) by one point, the difference being the Badgers won a shootout over North Dakota, while the Gophers fell in a shootout to UND.
“I’m not as much a fan of [shootouts] anymore,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said.
Overtime was necessary because Wisconsin rallied from a 3-1 deficit, tying the game in the third period when Annie Pankowski converted on a penalty shot.
“We caught a break with the penalty shot and then it becomes a whole new game,” UW coach Mark Johnson said. “We got energized by it and played pretty well.”
Sarah Nurse had pulled the Badgers close when Amanda Leveille stopped her breakaway attempt, but the rebound went off Nurse’s skate, off the post, and into the net.
The game started as Friday’s did, with the Gophers jumping out to an early lead. Sarah Potomak was left alone in the slot and she fired in Minnesota’s only power-play goal of the weekend to make it 1-0 at 3:35 of the first period. Kate Schipper doubled the lead 85 seconds later, depositing a loose puck behind a sprawled Desbiens.
“The first couple of shifts were ok and then we took a penalty and they capitalized on their power play and then we made a tactical error and before we know it, it’s two-nothing,” Johnson said.
Erika Sowchuk was able to give the Wisconsin fans in the crowd of 3,091 something to celebrate for the first time all weekend when she scored at 12:51 of the first.
Piazza restored the two-goal margin a period later on a goalmouth scramble.
“Wisconsin, to their credit, pushed back and were able to, after getting down a couple times, tie the game up there in the third,” Frost said.
Pannek finished with a goal and two assists. Schipper and Piazza had one of each, as did Pankowski.
“Winning in overtime against Wisconsin — there’s nothing better than that,” Pannek said.
Next, the Gophers host Ohio State in a best-of-three WCHA quarterfinal series.
“Just knowing we can face adversity,” Pannek said. “We can be up, we can be tied, we can go through ups and downs during games and still come out and be there and battle. It’s just a huge momentum builder.”
While Wisconsin suffered its first losses of 2016, Johnson said the weekend helped his team get ready for its home playoff series with Minnesota State.
“We came up a little bit short, but it was a good effort,” Johnson said. “We showed a lot of heart today.”