A Gophers women’s hockey team that’s made a habit of hoisting the NCAA championship trophy each March faced the stunning prospect Sunday of having its season end in February.

After entering the weekend as an NCAA bubble team, the Gophers needed a win over always dangerous Bemidji State to advance past the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

One day after losing Game 2 to the Beavers, the Gophers got two goals from Kelly Pannek and 18 saves from Sidney Peters in a 3-2 victory at Ridder Arena.

Trailing by two, Bemidji State (12-20-3) got a goal from Abby Halluska early in the third period, but Peters stopped everything after that, as the Gophers won the best-of-three series 2-1.

The second-seeded Gophers (25-6-5) advanced to the conference semifinals. They’ll face third-seeded Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday at Ridder, with the winner facing either top-seeded Wisconsin or fourth-seeded North Dakota.

Minnesota is the two-time defending national champion, but the Gophers are missing All-American Dani Cameranesi (lower-body injury) and entered the weekend at No. 6 in the RPI rankings on USCHO.com. The eight-team NCAA field will be picked next Sunday.


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