BEMIDJI, Minn. - University of Minnesota senior Kelly Pannek recorded a natural hat trick to lift the No. 2 Gophers (28-4-1, 18-4-1 WCHA) over the Bemidji State University women's hockey team Friday afternoon in game one of the regular season series final. The Beavers (13-18-2, 10-11-2 WCHA) fell to the Gophers 6-3 in the game but were tied 2-2 before Pannek scored the next three goals for the natural hat trick.
Minnesota had one of the best starts to a game that anyone can have when Taylor Wente scored off the first shot of the game just 26 seconds after puck drop. The Gophers didn't relent and just 4:06 later, Sarah Potomak scored her eighth of the season to extend the lead to 2-0. The Beavers battled back however, and at 7:15 Lindsey Featherstone fired a puck from the top of the circle that deflected off a defender's stick and past goaltender Alex Gulstene to bring the Beavers within one. Bemidji State struck again just 3:22 later when Paige Beebe blocked a shot from the point and skated past the defense for the breakaway game-tying goal. However, Pannek and the Gophers would score at 14:22 to retake the 3-2 lead just before the period's end.
Pannek would score the game's next two goals in the second period to complete the natural hat trick and enter the third period with the 5-2 lead over the Beavers. Bemidji State started the third period strong when Abby Halluska batted in a rebounded Emily Bergland shot just 28 seconds into the final frame. However, BSU couldn't find the crucial goal to pull them within one and with just 18 seconds remaining, Taylor Heise sealed the 6-3 victory with the empty-net goal.
Gulstene earned the win in the crease for the Gophers after stopping 29-of-32 shots and improves to 18-2-0 on the season while Lauren Bench falls to 9-9-2 for the Beavers after stopping 25-of-30 shots.
The Beavers and Gophers will play the regular season finale tomorrow afternoon again at 3:07 p.m. The Beavers will honor its two seniors, Melissa Hunt and Emily Bergland, before tomorrow's game in part of senior day.