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Watching the UMD women’s hockey team face the heavily-favored University of Minnesota last Saturday afternoon, I didn’t even give a thought to the U. S. Olympic women’s Gold Medal moment, or the much-publicized rivalry between Gophers senior center Kelly Pannek and UMD junior goaltender Maddie Rooney.
They were roomates on Team USA, and became close friends during their long year together. Pannek, former star at Benilde, is the top gun in the Gopher arsenal as first-line center, and there was plenty of good-natured heckling between her and Rooney, who starred in goal for the Andover boys high school team before Shannon Miller recruited her to UMD.
All of that was forgotten when Minnesota won the Friday game 5-2 in the series opener at AMSOIL Arena, erupting for four straight goals and a 4-1 lead in a first period that ended 4-2 for Minnesota. The final was 5-2, and Minnesota’s talent executed coach Brad Frost’s game plan to near perfection. Frost is such a fan of Rooney that he devised a focus on shooting everything low and go for rebounds.
“We wanted to get the puck to the net and cause some congestion, trying to take her eyes away,” said Frost. “She’s so good, if she sees it, she’ll stop it. So how many shots did she glove? Not many.”
And all five goals were on rebounds, as the Gophers outshot UMD 46-23.
UMD coach Maura Crowell realized it, too, and with top defenseman Jalyn Elmes missing the series to attend to family obligations, Crowell moved top scoring threat Ashton Bell back to play defense, which was a tough task against the always pressing Gophers. “They played four lines consistently, too,” said Crowell, “and their depth was a factor.”
The test for the Bulldogs is that, armed with nine freshmen in a class that will make or break Crowell’s determined attempt to get UMD back up into contention with Minnesota and Wisconsin in the WCHA, they will have to prove they can beat those top two, not just skate with them. But in Game 2, the Bulldogs played much better, tighter on defense, and cleaning up the congestion in front of a much more solid Rooney.
Freshman Gabbi eHughes scored the game’s first goal for the second day in a row, and Anna Klein made it 2-0 in the second period -- both UMD goals coming on power plays. But Nicole Schammel got one back for the Gophers in the third period, and then Ashton Bell was tossed with a 5-minute major for checking from behind, a marginal penalty at best. On the power play, none other than Kelly Pannek shot from the right circle, but didn’t get hold of all of it, although it slid through some legs and caught the far edge to tie the game 2-2. So it hit me that Pannek had gained an edge in the one-upmanship between the two buddies.
Nobody else scored, during the last 11 minutes of the third period and through a 5-minute overtime. In the Women’s WCHA, rules say they go right to a shootout for the chance to determine a winner, plus give that winner a point in league standings. Frost named his three, and Crowell sent her’s out.
First up was UMDs Gabbie Hughes, and she beat Gopher goaltender Sydney Scobee. Next came Amy Potomak, an exceptional Gopher freshman from Aldergrove, British Columbia, who joined her junior sister Sarah as wingers with Pannek on the first line, and with Canada’s National women’s team. Hmmmm, I hmmmed, Canada vs. U.S., eh? Potomak zoomed in, and Maddie Rooney said later she had decided not to try to poke-check her, but the opportunity came, Rooney dived out, and poked the puck away before Potomak could shoot. That kept the shootout score 1-0, but more than that, I was slapped upside the head at the realization of how Rooney had just made an Olympian save.
Ryleigh Houston was Crowell’s next choice, and she skated in, cut right, and scored a 5-hole goal on Scobee to put UMD up 2-0. The only way the Gophers could get to the third round of shootout would be if the second Gopher shooter could score. The second Gopher shooter was — drum roll, please — Kelly Pannek.
Roommate against roomate, Gopher against Bulldog, bragging rights on the line. Pannek skated in, shifted to her right...and never had a chance. Rooney went down and smothered her shot. The Bulldogs have to officially call it a tie in NCAA terms, but they won the extra point in the WCHA, so it was a clear victory — any way you want to frame it. Maddie Rooney had executed a repeat performance of her dramatic shootout saves that had given Team USA its Gold Medal victory against Canada, and now she had lifted UMD to the AMSOIL Arena rafters with a shootout victory.
Her teammates mobbed her. And the high should last for at least the long busride to Madison for this weekend’s series against the heavily favored Badgers. Wait a minute. Let’s make it the slightly favored Badgers, because they don’t have a Gold Medal goalie.
UMD Tops Huskies in Volleyball Duel
When Sarah Kelly went out with a knee injury a couple of weeks ago, it was just as the UMD volleyball team was in the midst of a four-game road trip in the rugged NSIC. Her first missed game was a stop in St. Cloud, where the Huskies didn’t treat the Bulldogs with much respect and throttled them 3-0.
The Bulldogs went on, gathered themselves together and won seven straight games that included knocking Northern State out of the nation’s No. 1 rank 3-1, and stunned Concordia of St. Paul 3-0. The streak ended with a loss at Southwest State, but the Bulldogs bounced back, with Kelly back in the lineup, and returned to Romano Gym Tuesday to face the same St. Cloud State Huskies.
Every game is a battle in the NSIC, but the Bulldogs put on an impressive show of balance to beat the Huskies 3-1. UMD won 25-12, lost 22-25, then won 25-16 and 25-16. Sophomore Kate Berg had 14 kills, junior Hanna Meyer 13, senior Morgen Makenzie 12, while Kelly and Abby Thor had 9 each. Abby Templin had 14 kills for the Huskies, but they had no answer for UMD’s balance.
The neat aside was that junior setter Emily Torve had 50 assists for UMD, while St. Cloud sophomore setter Maddy Torve had 36 assists for the Huskies. The two are sisters from the western Twin Cities suberb of Loretto, and both attended Heritage Christian Academy. Their parents and grandparents attended the game, wearing matching jackets that had a UMD logo on the right, with “Emily” under it, and “SCSU” on the left side, with “Maddy” embroidered under it.
The agreed it was an exciting match, much better than the 3-0 one in St. Cloud earlier, but they find it excruciating to cheer for one and sympathize for the other on every single point. Normal fans won’t have that problem this weekend, when the Bulldogs stay home as part of UMD Homecoming weekend to play Winona State at 6 p.m. Friday and Upper Iowa at 4 p.m. Saturday, right after the 1 p.m. Homecoming football game between the undefeated Bulldogs and Southwest Minnesota State.
for more great photos go to duluthreader.com