|1st||10:35||MIN||1-0||EV||Kelly Pannek (18)||Sarah Potomak/31, Megan Wolfe/17|
|1st||13:26||MIN||2-0||EV||Caitlin Reilly (8)||Kate Schipper/17, Lee Stecklein/20|
|1st||19:50||BMJ||1-2||EV||Lauren Miller (9)||Madison Hutchinson/12|
|2nd||15:14||MIN||3-1||EV GW||Kelly Pannek (19)||Cara Piazza/8, Sarah Potomak/32|
|3rd||4:25||BMJ||2-3||EV||Abby Halluska (5)||-|
|Shots on Goal||1st||2nd||3rd||SOG|
|Team Stats and Records||PP||PIM||SHGF|
|Bemidji State (12-20-3)||0/1||2/4||0|
|Bemidji State Goaltending||MIN||GA||1||2||3||Saves|
|Brittni Mowat (L, 11-19-3)||58:24||3||12||14||7||33|
|Sidney Peters (W, 24-6-4)||60:00||2||8||4||6||18|
MINNEAPOLIS - Kelly Pannek scored twice and Sarah Potomak tallied two assists to lead the No. 4 Golden Gopher women's hockey team to a 3-2 win over Bemidji State in game three of this weekend's WCHA First Round series. With the win, Minnesota advances to its 18th-straight WCHA Final Face-off next weekend at Ridder Arena.
Along with Pannek's two-goal effort, the Gophers received a goal from Caitlin Reilly. In total, seven Gophers recoreded at least one point in the win, and Sidney Peters made 18 saves as the Gophers outshot the Beavers, 36-20, for the game.
Minnesota (25-6-5) won 3-1 in game one of the WCHA First Round series, but BSU evened the series with a 2-1 win in game two to force Sunday's decisive game three.
"It was a really hard fought series," head coach Brad Frost said. "We're certainly happy to be moving on in the playoffs here and facing Duluth next weekend.
"We approached it as if it was our season on the line today. I don't think they knew any scenarios that could get us in. We didn't talk about that. We just talked about the season depending on today's effort. Let's make sure we give a perfect effort and play for one another and see what happens."
"We were hoping to win in two, but that didn't happen, so we knew we had to win in three," Pannek said. "It's all about responding. This series kind of shows our season, just the ups and downs you can have and fighting back from adversity and finding a way. Bemidji is a great team. They're so tough to play against. They play such a disciplined style of hockey. Their season was on the line, too. I thought we prepared well for that today."
Bemidji State (12-19-3) received goals from Lauren Miller and Abby Halluska while being led by goaltender Brittni Mowat's 33-save effort in the loss.
"Credit Bemidji," Frost said. "I think they were one or two points out of fifth place this season and ended up seventh and then see us (in the first round). They gave us everything we could handle through three games.
"This was the first time our program has ever gone to three games in the WCHA playoffs. They're just a well-coached, hardworking group. They're opportunistic as they were tonight. Overall, I'm really proud of our kids. Our big time players had to step up, and they did tonight. Our two top lines played well."
Pannek put Minnesota on the board first midway through the first period with her 18th goal of the season when she knocked in a rebound off a shot by Potomak. Megan Wolfe also picked up an assist on the play at the 10:35 mark of the opening period. Reilly then scored to make it 2-0 for the Maroon & Gold with 6:34 remaining in the period.
"The quick start was huge," Lee Stecklein said. "I think it's huge, and set the pace for the rest of the game."
The Beavers pressured in the final 90 seconds of the opening frame, including a one-on-one for Kiki Radke stopped by Peters before Miller cut the Gophers' lead to one with her ninth goal of the season with just 10 seconds remaining in the period. The teams headed into the first intermission with Minnesota leading 2-1.
Pannek netted her second of the game with 4:46 remaining in the second period, and the Gophers took a 3-1 lead into the second intermission after outshooting the Beavers, 15-4, during the middle frame.
Bemidji State responded in the fifth minute of the third period when Halluska converted on a 2-on-0 for the Beavers to again make it a one-goal game at 3-2, but the Gophers held on for the win, including over 90 seconds of six-on-five as BSU pulled Mowat in the game's final minutes for the extra attacker.
"They really put the pressure on us," Stecklein said. "They're a great team, and they showed that this weekend. We really had to do everything we could to keep them from scoring another goal. They definitely battled really hard, and I have a lot of respect for their program."
With the win, the Gophers join the league's other top three seeds in advancing to next weekend's WCHA Final Face-off, which will be held at Ridder Arena. Top-seeded Wisconsin (29-2-4) faces No. 4 seed North Dakota (16-15-6) in the first semifinal at 2:07 p.m. CT Saturday with the No. 2 seed Gophers taking on No. 3 seed Minnesota Duluth (24-5-5) at 5:07 p.m. CT in semifinal number two.
"We haven't seen them since the beginning of January," Frost said of Minnesota Duluth. "They're right up there at two or three in the country, and they deserve that ranking. Hopefully we will have a better outcome, but we will play well and make it a good game."
The Badgers and Bulldogs swept their respective series over No. 8 seed Minnesota State and No. 6 seed St. Cloud State to advance to the league tournament while UND defeated No. 5 seed Ohio State, 2-1 in overtime, in their own game three on Sunday after splitting the first two games.
All-tournament ticket packages are now on sale via MyGopherSports.com. The semifinal winners advance to the WCHA championship game at 2:07 p.m. CT on Sunday, March 5, to play for the league's postseason trophy and an automatic berth to the NCAA tournament.