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Minnesota Returns to Frozen Four with 5-2 Win Over Princeton

Kelly Pannek (19) scored a goal and an assist while taking Hannah Brandt's spot on the team's first line.
Kelly Pannek (19) scored a goal and an assist while taking Hannah Brandt’s spot on the team’s first line.
Brad Rempel/Minnesota Athletics

There were high expectations at the beginning of the season for Minnesota’s line of Kelly Pannek centering sisters Amy and Sarah Potomak after the trio returned from a one-year sabbatical as they centralized with their respective national teams for the Olympic year.

But success did not come easy to the trio. Pannek and Sarah Potomak posted career-low point totals in the regular season, while Amy Potomak never quite looked like a player that received a vote for preseason WCHA player of the year. They were clearly established as Minnesota’s second line behind the higher-scoring group of Nicole Schammel, Grace Zumwinkle and Taylor Wente.

But with their season on the line in an NCAA quarterfinal, the Potomaks and Pannek came through with an impressive, dominant performance, combining to score four goals and make some key plays to lead Minnesota to a 5-2 victory over Princeton and return the Golden Gophers to the women’s Frozen Four.

After each Potomak sister scored a goal in the first period, matching a pair of goals from Princeton star freshman Sarah Fillier in the first two frames, it was Pannek that would score the game’s deciding goal at 11:47 of the third period off a 3-on-2 rush.

Princeton would pressure to tie late, and got their best opportunity with just over a minute left, when it appeared they had an open net to shoot at, but Pannek was able to make a diving stop in the crease to eliminate the chance. Sarah Potomak picked up the rebound and fired a shot the length of the ice into the open net to ice the game.

Minnesota advances to next week’s Frozen Four, where they will face Cornell, who pulled off an overtime upset of Northeastern earlier in the afternoon. Wisconsin and Clarkson will face off in the other half of the bracket.

Notes and Thoughts:

-The crux of this game came down to Princeton’s powerful first line versus the depth of Minnesota. Princeton gave it a heck of a go, with Sarah Fillier, who is a really special player, scoring twice to give Princeton a fighting chance late into the third period. But ultimately, Minnesota’s second line was just too good tonight.

They were all over the ice tonight, applying heavy pressure to Princeton on nearly every shift. Credit the Princeton defense for holding them off as well as they did, but it was only a matter of time until they cashed in.

That was the Minnesota team that I think people were expecting to see all season. If Minnesota can get two more performances out of that line like they did on Saturday, they’ll be really tough to beat next weekend.

-As impressive as the four goals from Minnesota’s second line were, they could have had a fifth. Amy Potomak appeared to score a goal to put Minnesota ahead 3-2 with 11:31 left in the second period. But after video review, it was determined that Potomak had interfered with the goalie before scoring the goal. It was a close play, and I only got one look at it, so it’s tough to say. It’s perhaps worth noting though that the officials had just missed a pretty blatant infraction on Minnesota that caused the neutral zone turnover leading to that goal, which may have served as a bit of a tiebreaker in Princeton’s favor.

In any case, Pannek’s game-winning goal in the third period came on a nearly identical play.

-Sydney Scobee got the start in net for today’s game after splitting most of the season with Alex Gulstene. Scobee was obviously good enough, as she got the win, though I’m not sure she was at her sharpest. There were a lot of long shots that she mishandled and left rebounds and loose pucks on. Princeton was never able to capitalize on those mistakes, but they made things a little more interesting than they needed to be. Scobee more than likely starts next weekend, but it wouldn’t be a complete shock to see Gulstene play next weekend either.

-Minnesota didn’t have to do a ton defensively today, but they came up with some huge shot blocks in the final eight minutes as they protected their lead. Olivia Knowles and Nicole Schammel each erased really nice scoring chances, and then Pannek made the diving stop in the final minute when it looked like Princeton was sure to tie the game.

Final Scoring

First Period

5:26 Sarah Fillier from Maggie Connors 1-0 Princeton

Connors skated the puck down the left wing on a rush and fed a pass to the front of the net that Fillier tipped into the upper corner of the net.

7:12 Sarah Potomak from Amy Potomak and Kelly Pannek 1-1 tie

Sarah Potomak took a shot from the bottom of the left circle that Neatby tried to squeeze, but the puck leaked through and just barely crossed the line.

18:05 Amy Potomak from Kelly Pannek and Sarah Potomak 2-1 Minnesota

Minnesota forced a turnover behind the Princeton net and the puck squirted out into the slot where Pannek was waiting to take a slap shot. Neatby made the initial save, but Amy Potomak was in position to put the rebound into an open net.

Second Period

2:43 Sarah Fillier from Carly Bullock and Mariah Keopple 2-2 tie

Fillier skated the puck into the Minnesota zone off a rush and fired a quick shot from the slot that beat Scobee for the goal.

Third Period

11:47 Kelly Pannek from Sarah Potomak 3-2 Minnesota

Potomak made a pass from the left wing to the front of the net on a 3-on-2 rush and Pannek was able to jam the pass past Neatby for the goal.

18:54 Sarah Potomak unassisted (empty net) 4-2 Minnesota

After a near-goal by Princeton that would have tied the game, Potomak won a loose puck and fired it the length of the ice into the open net.

19:46 Nicole Schammel from Taylor Williamson (empty net) 5-2 Minnesota

Schammel closed out the scoring with a shot from the neutral zone.