College women's hockey: Olympic frenemies Rooney, Pannek reunite for WCHA opener
When Minnesota's Kelly Pannek learned Minnesota Duluth's Maddie Rooney would be her roommate in Florida last fall during the lead up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Gophers forward wasn't concerned about rooming with ...
When Minnesota's Kelly Pannek learned Minnesota Duluth's Maddie Rooney would be her roommate in Florida last fall during the lead up to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the Gophers forward wasn't concerned about rooming with a former foe only months after their heated battle in an NCAA quarterfinal game.
Pannek was a tad worried about rooming with goalies, however. In addition to Rooney, she'd also be sharing a dwelling with former Lindenwood goaltender Nicole Hensley.
"You don't know what to expect," Pannek said. "Goalies are a little different.
"Our personalities really jelled well. We just laughed a lot, did a lot of funny things."
In addition to some laughs, a few epic anecdotes for Twitter and of course an Olympic gold medal, Pannek gained a couple lifelong friends in Rooney and Hensley. This weekend in Duluth, two of the three Olympic roomies will square off as Rooney's fourth-ranked Bulldogs host Pannek's third-ranked Gophers at 7:07 p.m. Friday and 3:07 p.m. Saturday at Amsoil Arena to open WCHA play.
Despite again being on opposite sides of a fierce rivalry, Pannek said she and Rooney are still friends, even this week.
"It will be fun seeing Maddie and other players," said Pannek, a redshirt senior from Plymouth, Minn. "Maddie I've seen a lot recently, just over the summer being from Minnesota and all that. It's always fun to see her. I'm sure there will some point where I will be in the crease and we'll be laughing."
MORE: UMD junior goaltender and Olympic gold medalist Maddie Rooney joins the Bulldog Insider podcast
Rooney, a redshirt junior from Andover, Minn., shares Pannek's excitement about the reunion, even if the two are again rivals. Any jabs exchanged in the Bulldogs crease this weekend will be friendly and of the verbal variety, as Rooney isn't one to throw a blocker punch anyway, she said.
Pannek will be the sixth Olympic teammate Rooney has faced in the opening three weeks of the season. Rooney opened with an exhibition loss to Hannah Brandt, Lee Stecklein and the Minnesota Whitecaps on Sept. 22, followed by a sweep of Megan Keller, Kali Flanagan, Cayla Barnes and Boston College last week.
None of the Eagles' Olympians scored, but Brandt scored twice on Rooney two weeks ago. That didn't set well with Rooney, and neither would Pannek scoring this weekend.
Despite being such good friends, Rooney said Pannek - who has put seven career goals past Rooney - is the former Olympic teammate she wants to shut out the most.
"It's been different," Rooney said of facing her former USA teammates. "I know Hannah (Brandt) scored on me. I have to give her crap for that - I mean, good shot.
"Against Kelly, she and I are pretty close. I think we'll probably be talking out there, probably throw some jabs at each other. I'm excited. I think it's an advantage for both of us because she might know something to maybe score on me. I know how she likes to play."
Rooney and Pannek aren't the only Team USA connections between the Bulldogs and Gophers.
UMD head coach Maura Crowell and Minnesota associate head coach Joel Johnson have worked together on the U.S. Women's Under-18 National Team, winning gold at the World Championships in 2016 and 2018. Crowell was Johnson's assistant in 2015-16 and the associate head coach in 2017-18. This season Crowell takes over as head coach of Team USA's U-18s.
Between the two rosters, there are 18 alumni of the U.S. Women's U-18 National Team. The Bulldogs boast five who've played for Johnson. The Gophers have 13, with 10 of those having played for Crowell on Team USA during the last three seasons.
"It's fun. It's a tight-knit group," Crowell said of the USA Hockey family. "People like Taylor Heise was on the U-18 team for three years. I've known her since she was practically a baby. Now she's all grown up and starring for the Gophers, which is great for her. There are so many of those stories. It's great to see them have success. I think we like to see each other around the rinks and it's fun to play against them and coach against them."
After this weekend, Rooney won't see any Olympic teammates until the second exhibition against the Whitecaps on Nov. 3. Pannek and the Gophers then host Rooney and the Bulldogs Feb. 2-3 in Minneapolis.
Despite being with Team USA, Pannek and Rooney kept a close eye on their college teams last year, and even watched those Bulldogs-Gophers series together in their apartment.
UMD went 0-3-1 against Minnesota a year ago. Pannek and Rooney said those games were the only time their friendship became a tad heated.
"We would be yelling back and forth at each other," Rooney said. "It was all out of friendliness."
"It was funny," Pannek said. "We joked and watched the series last year together. I got to rub it in her face a little bit."
NO. 3 MINNESOTA AT NO. 4 UMD
What: WCHA opener
When: 7:07 p.m. Friday/3:07 p.m. Saturday
Where: Amsoil Arena
TV: My9 Saturday
Internet: flohockey.tv (video)
Fast facts: UMD will celebrate World Girls Hockey Weekend giving the first 250 fans both days a Bulldogs puck. The first 500 fans Saturday get a 20th season of UMD hockey commemorative sticker.