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WOMEN’S HOCKEY: BSU erases early deficit, yet falls to No. 2 Gophers

BEMIDJI -- Nobody scores goals quite like the Golden Gophers. The Bemidji State women's hockey team found that out the hard way Friday afternoon in a 6-3 loss at the Sanford Center.

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Bemidji State junior Heather Olson (20) fires a shot during Friday's loss to Minnesota at the Sanford Center. (BSU photo)

BEMIDJI -- Nobody scores goals quite like the Golden Gophers. The Bemidji State women’s hockey team found that out the hard way Friday afternoon in a 6-3 loss at the Sanford Center.

Minnesota, which entered the weekend with an NCAA-leading 138 goals on the season, scored three in the first period en route to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association-series opening win.

Kelly Pannek recorded a natural hat trick, scoring a go-ahead goal late in the first period and two more in the second, including the eventual game-winner for the second-ranked Gophers (28-4-1, 18-4-1-0 WCHA).

“They’re obviously very talented,” BSU head coach Jim Scanlan said. “They’re averaging almost five goals a game, and you can kind of see why. If you give them opportunities, they’re going to make plays.”

Coupled with a shootout win Friday night by Minnesota Duluth that followed a 5-5 tie at Minnesota State, UMD is now one point ahead of BSU for fourth place in the WCHA. The Bulldogs’ two points propelled them into the final home-ice playoff spot.

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Trailing by a goal just 26 seconds into the game, the Beavers (13-18-2, 10-11-2-0 WCHA) could have thrown in the towel. They didn’t give up, however, and managed to erase a two-goal deficit in an eventful first period.

Following goals by Taylor Wente and Sarah Potomak in the first five minutes, Lindsey Featherstone and Paige Beebe answered for BSU.

Featherstone snuck a puck past netminder Alex Gulstene after it deflected off a Minnesota skater for the Beavers’ first goal. Minutes later, Beebe forced a turnover at center ice and skated to a breakaway goal to level the score at 2-all.

“Despite the score, there was certainly a lot of good,” Scanlan said. “We fought back and tied the game. I thought we had a great first seven-to-eight minutes of that second period. We had a lot of quality zone time.”

Pannek tallied the first of three consecutive goals with 5:38 to play in the frame, sending the Gophers to the first intermission with a 3-2 lead.

After a power-play goal, Pannek completed her natural hat trick by tapping in puck with 5:18 to play in the second period, handing the visitors a 5-2 lead heading into the final frame.

Abby Halluska narrowed the gap to two goals 28 seconds into the third period, backhanding a rebound for the goal.

Despite outshooting the Gophers 32-31 for the game, an empty-net goal in the closing seconds sealed the 6-3 win.

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“We’ve just got to shore up some areas in our end, and if we do that, who knows,” Scanlan said.

Lauren Bench saved 25 of the 30 shots she faced in the loss, falling to 9-9-2 on the season. Gulstene improved to 18-2-0 with the win after stopping 29 shots.

Today’s 3:07 p.m. rematch marks the end of the regular season. Bemidji State can finish as high as fourth in the WCHA standings and no lower than fifth. BSU is guaranteed to face UMD in the first round of the playoffs.

The Beavers will hope for results to play out in their favor in order to secure the No. 4 seed and home ice for the first round of the WCHA Playoffs.

“Tomorrow’s a new day, it’s another opportunity,” Scanlan said. “Whatever happens around the league doesn’t matter. We still have an opportunity. Let’s see if we can go out tomorrow and get some points.”

Minnesota 6, Bemidji State 3

UM 3 2 1 -- 6

BSU 2 0 1 -- 3

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First period -- 1, UM, Wente (Schammel, Knowles), 0:26; 2, UM, S. Potomak (A. Potomak, Marshall), 4:32; 3, BSU, Featherstone (Langei), 7:15; 4, BSU, Beebe (unassisted), 10:37; 5, UM, Pannek (S. Potomak, A. Potomak), 14:22.

Second period -- 6, UM, Pannek (Heise, Brown), 8:37, PP; 7, UM, Pannek (S. Potomak, A. Potomak), 14:42.

Third period -- 8, BSU, Halluska (Bergland), 0:28; 9, UM, Heise (Woken), 19:42, EN.

Goalies (saves-shots) -- BSU, Bench (25-30); UM, Gulstene (29-32).

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Bemidji State junior Jacqueline Kaasa (12) weaves through traffic during Friday's loss to Minnesota at the Sanford Center. (BSU photo)

Austin Monteith is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of Bloomington, Ill., he is a 2015 graduate of Butler University. Follow him on Twitter at @amonteith92. Contact the Pioneer sports department at sports@bemidjipioneer.com.
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The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.
The following is a letter to the editor submitted by a reader and does not reflect the views of the Pioneer. Letters can be sent to letters@bemidjipioneer.com or P.O. Box 455, Bemidji, MN 56601.