PHOTO COURTESY OF GOPHER ATHLETICS
Kelly Pannek is currently a forward playing for the University of Minnesota. Pannek is from Plymouth, Minnesota, and played high school hockey at Benilde-St. Margaret’s High School. At Benilde-St. Margaret’s Pannek was a five-time all-conference honoree, four-time Star Tribune all-metro honoree, and two-time all-state honoree. She served as team captain for three years and lead her team to four North Suburban Conference titles and three section runner-up finishes. As a senior, Pannek led Benilde-St. Margaret to a runner-up finish at the 2014 Minnesota Class AA State Tournament. She led all players with 11 points in the tournament and was named to the All-Tournament Team. During the regular season her senior year, Pannek recorded 34 goals and 54 assists and was named a finalist for the prestigious Minnesota Ms. Hockey award.
Pannek also found success internationally with Team USA. She was a member of the US Women’s National Under-18 Team and earned a silver medal at the 2018 IIHF U-18 Women’s World Championships. Additionally, Pannek competed at the club level with the Minnesota Jr. Whitecaps.
As a freshman at the University of Minnesota, Pannek found immediate success. She finished fourth on her team with 44 points and led all rookies in the country in scoring. She also finished eighth out of all skaters in the NCAA with 30 assists and ranked 17th in points-per-game with a 1.07 average. At the end of the season, Pannek was honored with nominations to both the WCHA All-Rookie Team and the All-USCHO Rookie Team. In the playoffs, Pannek continued to score as she had three points in a first-round sweep of Minnesota State and two points in the Frozen Four to help Minnesota win a National Championship.
Pannek continued to improve as a sophomore as she recorded a career-high 49 points to finish fourth on the Gophers. She also led the team in game-winning goals with six. She finished the season with an impressive plus-45 rating and 111 shots on net. Academically, Pannek excelled as she was named a WCHA Scholar-Athlete, WCHA All-Academic, and an Academic All-Big Ten honoree. In the playoffs, she scored a goal in the championship game of the Frozen Four to help Minnesota earn their second consecutive National Championship.
The next season, Pannek set another career high in points with 62 points. This ranked second in the country and first on her team. She also led the country in assists with 43. Of her 19 goals, six of them came on the power play and seven of them were game-winning goals. Additionally, Pannek led Minnesota with 165 shots on net and was second on the team with a plus-39 rating. At the end of the season, Pannek picked up many accolades. She was the WCHA scoring champion and was named to the All-WCHA First Team. Also, she was named a ACHA/CMM Hockey First Team All-American, a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award top-10 finalist, and a member of the All-USCHO First Team. Academically, Pannek was named a WCHA All-Academic and Academic All-Big Ten honoree for the second consecutive year. Pannek was also invited to play with the US Women’s National Team and won a gold medal at the 2017 IIHF Women’s World Championship.
Last year, Pannek redshirted the season and spent the year training with the US Women’s National Team. She played in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, where she recorded two assists in five games and won a gold medal. Pannek came back to Minnesota this year with the goal of leading Minnesota back to the National Championship as a team captain. Over the weekend, Minnesota lost in the WCHA finals but still earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
During the regular season, Pannek recorded 28 points in 34 games and was named to the All-WCHA Third Team. She will graduate at the end of the school year with a degree in finance and a minor in supply chain management. Last December, Pannek was drafted fourth overall by the Minnesota Whitecaps in the NWHL draft.
3. Kali Flanagan (D), Boston College, Boston Pride (5th overall, 2018)
2. Nicole Schammel (F), University of Minnesota, Buffalo Beauts (23rd overall, 2018)
1. Loren Gabel (F), Clarkson University, Buffalo Beauts (8th overall, 2018)
Last week’s must-see matchup between Ohio State and Wisconsin featured an exciting 3-2 Wisconsin victory. Wisconsin opened up the scoring midway through the first period on the power play. However, Ohio State scored with a minute left in the period to tie up the game. Lauren Boyle, a Minnesota Whitecaps draft pick, assisted on the goal. Ohio State then took the lead in the second period on another goal assisted on by Lauren Boyle. The end of the second period featured another last-minute goal as Wisconsin tied up the game as the two teams headed into the second intermission. With just five minutes left in the game, Annie Pankowski, the first overall 2018 NWHL draft pick for the Metropolitan Riveters, scored the game-winning goal to send Wisconsin to the WCHA finals.
This week’s must-see matchup is the NCAA quarterfinal matchup between Boston College and Clarkson. The two teams face off on Saturday, March 16 at 2 pm. Kali Flanagan (Boston Pride), Makenna Newkirk (Connecticut Whale), and Megan Keller (Buffalo Beauts) will all be fighting to extended BC’s season. Meanwhile, Loren Gabel of Clarkson, a Buffalo Beauts draft pick, will be looking to lead Clarkson back to the Frozen Four. This game will also feature a lot of star power, as Keller and Gabel are two out of the three finalists for the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award.