Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Christine Bestland continues proud legacy of elite scorers at Mercyhurst

Next to Meghan Agosta, the greatest player in Mercyhurst Lakers history may have been Christine Bestland. Having graduated from Mercyhurst with 226 points (92 goals and 134 assists), including 32 power play goals and 20 game-winning tallies, Bestland continued the strong legacy of elite scorers that have donned the Mercyhurst jersey.

Considering that she spent at least half of her Lakers career without the likes of superstars such as Meghan Agosta, Vicki Bendus, Bailey Bram, Jesse Scanzano and Hilary Pattenden, Bestland was the offensive catalyst from 2012-14, testament to her talent. In her last two seasons, she recorded an astounding 126 points as the Lakers enjoyed a pair of consecutive Frozen Four appearances.

Joining the program on the heels of making her mark on Canadian hockey history, helping Canada win its first-ever gold medal at the IIHF Under-18 Women’s Worlds, Bestland was ready to make her mark on the program. As a side note, she also enjoyed the rare distinction of being featured on a hockey card. In 2011, Upper Deck released its World of Sport card set, featuring all the members of Canada’s U18 gold medal winning squad.

Bestland’s career truly was an extension of the Lakers growing legacy as a nationally prominent program. As a freshman in 2010-11, she logged 42 points, a solid showing for the freshman. 

She would follow it up with a 16-point improvement in her sophomore campaign. A career-best 72 points was part of her sterling junior season in 2012-13. She would accomplish career highs in goals (28), assists (44), points, power play goals (10) and game-winning goals (7).

Despite the pressure of having to bear the burden of leadership in her final two seasons without the aforementioned stars, Bestland proved she was up to the challenge. Of the goals she scored in her senior season, four were recorded on the power-play. This was complemented by four game-winning tallies and an NCAA-best (and career high) five shorthanded goals. She would bring additional versatility to her game with 25 blocked shots and a +37 plus/minus rating.

Although her senior season resulted in a 54-point output (22 goals and 32 assists), there was no shortage of milestones. A December series with their conference rivals, the Penn State Nittany Lions would prove to be an early Christmas gift for Bestland. An assist on the Saturday contest versus Penn State provided her with the 200th point of her distinguished career. In doing so, she became the fifth Laker to be part of the 200-point club, joining Valerie Chouinard, Bailey Bram, Jesse Scanzano, and Meghan Agosta.

With an assist in the first period of Saturday's 8-0 win over Penn State, senior Christine Bestland of the Mercyhurst University women's hockey team recorded her 200th career point to become the fifth player in program history to reach the milestone. She joined as the only players in school history to accomplish the feat. Heading into the weekend, Bestland needed just five points which she collected with a hat trick and an assist during Friday's contest and an assist on the second goal Saturday for her five-point weekend.

Saving some of her best hockey for the month of March, Bestland would factor in all three goals in a 3-2 win over Cornell in the NCAA tournament. Two goals, including the game-winning tally helped propel the program to its second straight Frozen Four. It would prove to be a day of great personal milestones for Bestland as well, surpassing Jesse Scanzano for second spot on the Lakers’ all-time scoring list.

Although the Frozen Four title eluded Bestland in her storied career, she was honored by Mercyhurst at their Annual Senior Sports Banquet as the Senior Female Student-Athlete of the Year award was bestowed upon her. It capped off a season of accolades that included All-America honors, a USCHO.com Third Team selection, the College Hockey America scoring title and her second consecutive College Hockey America Player of the Year Award.

While she did not register for the 2014 CWHL Draft, it would be a great coup for the Calgary Inferno if the club could sign her as a free agent. As Canada’s national women’s team is headquartered in Calgary, the chance to play with the Inferno might be of great benefit to Bestland, as she has too much talent to be sitting idle in the upcoming season.

Having grown up in Manitoba, the chance to play in Calgary would tap into her Western Canadian hockey roots. An added incentive would be the chance to possibly reunite with a former Mercyhurst teammate. Taking into account that the club traded for Bailey Bram (who played with Bestland for two seasons) in an effort to provide depth on its offense, the thought of Bram and Bestland playing together again would stimulate interest for the growing franchise. 

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