Kelly Pannek scored twice, including the eventual game-winning goal, to edge Minnesota over Bemidji State and into the WCHA semifinals with a 3-2 triumph.
“This series kind of shows our season, the ups and downs that you can have and fighting back from adversity and finding a way,” Pannek said. “I think that’s what we had to do this weekend. Bemidji is a great team and they’re so tough to play against.”
Pannek opened the scoring midway through the first frame, carrying the puck to the net and sliding it under Brittni Mowat.
“Today, me and Sarah [Potomak] were just really clicking,” Pannek said of her sophomore wing, who assisted on both of her goals.
“Our big-time players had to step up, and they did tonight,” Minnesota coach Brad Frost said.
Within three minutes, Caitlin Reilly put the Gophers (25-6-5, 19-4-5-3 WCHA) up by two when her shot from the side found room over Mowat’s shoulder.
“They came out like the championship team that they are,” Bemidji State coach Jim Scanlan said. “After that, I thought we went toe to toe with them.”
Lauren Miller rallied Bemidji State (12-20-3, 7-18-3-1 WCHA) with an unassisted goal before intermission.
“Unfortunately, Sid [Peters] made the first save with 10 seconds left, it hits [Sydney Baldwin’s] skate and goes in the net,” Frost said.
Pannek’s second tally in the middle stanza restored the lead, gave her 60 points on the season, and broke a mini slump.
“Moving her feet a little more, moving the puck a little more, and then taking it to the net,” Frost said.
Abby Halluska countered with another unassisted goal to draw the Beavers back within one early in the third.
“There were times I thought we had them back on their heals, but just couldn’t get that one,” Scanlan said. “Just really proud of our effort. Minnesota definitely earned this today, so hats off to them.”
The All-American Mowat made 33 saves in her final appearance for Bemidji State.
“It has been my privilege to be her coach,” Scanlan said. “She was just spectacular.”
For the first time since the WCHA switched to the format, Minnesota had to play a league quarterfinal with its season at stake.
“We definitely talked about it and we used it to motivate us,” captain Lee Stecklein said. “There was no way anybody wanted this to be our last game of the season. Everything else — we don’t have control over that, but we had control over today.”
Peters made 18 saves to gain her 24th win of the year.
“A really hard-fought series, and certainly, happy to be moving on in the playoffs here and facing [Minnesota Duluth] here next weekend, but credit Bemidji,” Frost said. “They gave us everything we could handle.”