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Kaz Watch: After Olympic Triumph, Minnesota's Pannek in Conversation for Award

02/08/2019, 1:00pm MST
By Dan Scifo

Olympic gold medalist is back to work helping Golden Gophers compete for national title

An award of The USA Hockey Foundation, the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award is presented annually to the top player in NCAA Division I women’s ice hockey. The 2019 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award winner will be announced on March 23 in conjunction with the NCAA Women's Frozen Four in Hamden, Conn.

University of Minnesota forward Kelly Pannek enjoyed a year that was filled with a historic Olympic gold medal and the celebration that followed.

The honors have continued during Pannek’s redshirt senior season as the standout forward was selected fourth overall in the 2018 National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL) Draft, and she’s also in the conversation for the prestigious Patty Kazmaier Award, presented annually to the top women’s college hockey player in the nation.

About The Award

“Obviously, anytime your name gets thrown around for the Patty Kazmaier Award, it’s such an honor,” Pannek said. “Knowing the ones who won in the past and the ones who haven’t, it’s crazy to be in the conversation. There are so many players who are having great years, and in general, it’s a huge honor. It’s not necessarily a personal goal, but it’s always cool to get recognized in that way.”

Pannek redshirted her senior season, while spending the year training and competing with the U.S. Women’s National Team. She recorded two assists at the Olympic Games en route to the gold medal. During Pannek’s junior year, her most recent collegiately, she was named a top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award.

“I think when that happened my junior year, it was definitely surprising,” Pannek said. “It’s not something I focus on or worry about, but it’s a huge honor and kind of gives you a confidence boost to have other people acknowledge the success you’ve been having. It’s pretty special.”

Pannek said the honor is a recognition of the hard work that others sometimes can’t see. She also acknowledged the difficulty of actually winning the award. That’s why Pannek doesn’t worry about the final result, but she appreciates the acknowledgement.

“Going through it doesn’t change anything for me or my team,” Pannek said. “It’s a good experience to have, just because you’re not worried about the outcome. I just let it play out as it’s going to play out.”

Pannek is currently Minnesota’s active career scoring leader as she ranks 10th all-time in school history. She’s sixth in program history in assists, recording her 100th career helper in Minnesota’s season opener.

Pannek, who not only helped Team USA to a gold medal at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, but also the 2018 Four Nations Cup, is serving as the captain this season for the newly-minted No. 1 Golden Gophers.

Pannek fires a shot to the net during the 2018 Olympic gold medal game, when Team USA defeated Canada, 3-2, in a shootout.

“It has been a really fun group to be part of,” Pannek said. “It’s the deepest team I’ve ever been on at the college level. I’m just super grateful to be part of it.”

Pannek already has an eye on her future as she was selected in the NWHL draft by her hometown Minnesota Whitecaps.

“To be able to get to this point and say I was drafted by a professional women’s hockey team, to be in that league and know the great things players have said about it and how much they enjoyed the experience,” Pannek said. “I’m just so fortunate and grateful and lucky to have another opportunity to keep playing, enjoying the game and doing what I love.”

Pannek received an email a day or two prior to the draft, informing of her selection. She was at USA Hockey’s Women’s Winter Training Camp at the time of the draft.

“Almost all the people there who were eligible were drafted, so it was fun to congratulate each other and be in that environment,” Pannek said. “I wasn’t surprised, but it was pretty cool and special. Just to kind of experience all of that makes it a little more real.”

The realization of winning an Olympic gold medal is also starting to set in for Pannek as the one-year anniversary of the accomplishment approaches.

“It’s crazy to think that was a year ago,” Pannek said. “That memory and moment is so important for our sport and on an individual level, it’s something I’ll never forget.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc. Photo courtesy of Eric Miller and Gopher Athletics.

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Tag(s): Kaz Watch