Alum Kelly Pannek (’14) reflects on her gold medal win at the 2018 Winter Olympics


Lauren Beh

Alum Kelly Pannek returned to BSM to be recognized for her success in the 2018 Olympics. She played a key role in the success of the U.S. Women’s National Hockey team.

Although alumni Kelly Pannek (‘14) has returned to the U.S. from her first Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, her experiences as a key part as the US Women’s Hockey Team are still fresh. The team defeated arch-rival Canada in a shootout after a nail biting 60 minutes followed by double overtime.

The U.S. Women’s Hockey Team hadn’t won a gold medal in the Olympics in 20 years, making the win that much more significant. “Hopefully we have and will inspire a younger generation with this gold medal, especially being the first in 20 years it is just awesome to be a part of,” Pannek said.

The game went back and forth, with the United States scoring early in the first period, and Canada scoring two in the second period. The U.S. tied it up late in the third, causing both teams to begin playing in a panic. The long six months of training in Tampa, Florida had come down to a final shootout.  As the time ticked away, both teams risked it all to try to get the puck in the back of the net, but neither side succeeded. “I have never felt more stress in a game than in the gold medal game, and as the game went on it just kept getting worse and worse,” senior Billy Pannek, Kelly’s brother, said. 

Hopefully we have and will inspire a younger generation with this gold medal, especially being the first in 20 years it is just awesome to be a part of.

— Kelly Pannek '14

The game was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation and throughout overtime, sending the championship into a shootout. After 5 rounds of the shootout, each team had earned two goals, forcing the game into a tie-breaker round. The United States scored first, putting them in the lead, but all eyes turned to the 20 year-old goaltender from Duluth, Minnesota, Maddie Rooney, as she defended against Canada’s final shooter. Rooney made an iconic save, finalizing the score at 3-2, and awarding team USA the gold medal. “All the stress just melted away. My sisters and I hugged and I high-fived with random USA fans. My parents were a few rows below me and my siblings rushed down there and we found my mom hugging Hoda Kotb and Al Roker and singing  ‘Born in the U.S.A,’” Billy Pannek said.

Every young athlete dreams of someday representing the red, white, and blue on an international stage at the Olympics, but few ever make it there. Kelly Pannek is one of the few exceptions. She started as a top high school recruit at BSM, winning Ms. Soccer and earning a finalist spot for Ms. Hockey her senior year, while also playing varsity lacrosse for the Red Knights in her senior year. Evidently, Pannek has left a great legacy here at BSM. “I think that is is awesome to have had coached Kelly and watch her grow as a hockey player into a Olympic star… Kelly likes to compete and is not afraid to work hard to get to the next level. [While at BSM] she lead by working hard and making a commitment to BSM Girls Hockey. She expected that everyone should play to their full potential,” former BSM hockey coach Dave Herbst said.

Pannek continued on to The University of Minnesota winning two national championships her freshman and sophomore years. Pannek decided to red shirt for the Gopher’s her senior year in order to participate in the Olympics. “While it was hard to not be there to watch my graduating classmates, I knew I made the right decision to tryout for the Olympic team,” Pannek said.  

The athletes participated in both the opening and closing ceremonies in addition to watching other sporting events, which for many would be the experience of a lifetime. “Opening ceremonies were really just a “wow” moment, you just feel so much honor and pride for your country; there is so much energy in the holding room that when you finally get out there to walk it goes so fast,” Pannek said. 

Pannek and her team have been touring the country with their gold medals and appearing on TV shows like The Ellen Show since arriving home from South Korea. “We have been able to do some really fun things and meet some cool people, which has been really fun,” Pannek said.

Pannek will continue to be a common name spoken throughout the hallways of BSM. Her contributions to the Red Knight Women’s hockey team and soccer team will most likely earn her a spot in the BSM Athletic Hall of Fame. Pannek will return to visit BSM in the coming weeks to show off her gold medal to the students, faculty, and staff of BSM.