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Brittany Wheeler (23) congratulated teammate Kelly Pannek after Pannek scored the first of two goals in the 2nd period. (Marlin Levison, Star Tribune)

After a season spent challenging his talented senior girls, Benilde-St. Margaret’s hockey coach Dave Herbst simply told them to make the most of Thursday’s state tournament experience.

The top line did just that. Kelly Pannek, Caitlin Reilly and Brittany Wheeler combined for five goals and eight assists as the No. 1 seed Red Knights (26-2-1) rolled to a 7-0 victory against Roseau in the Class 2A quarterfinals.

“I thought they were playing like they usually do — fantastic,” Herbst said. “The other team was just looking around like, ‘What’s going on?’ They’re good.”

Roseau’s physical play and relentless forecheck temporarily negated the Red Knights’ potent top line and kept the first period scoreless.

Reilly put her team ahead 1-0 in the second period. Roseau (16-13) hoped to answer but Josee Lundgren’s breakaway chance was denied by Red Knights goaltender Abbey Miller.

Soon after, Pannek netted two goals a little more than one minute apart and Roseau trailed 3-0. Both coaches said the sequence changed the game.

“A goal there would have helped because all season we’ve had a hard time scoring goals,” Rams coach Steve Huglen said.

Pannek, who completed the hat trick in the third period, is a future Gopher and one of six Red Knights signed to play Division I hockey. Five of them, including Reilly and Wheeler, are forwards.

“Once we get one, we get another and then it’s hard to stop us because we’re so talented offensively,” Pannek said.

David La Vaque

Game Interviews and photo highlights - Photos by Brian W Nelson

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