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Bestland leads Mercyhurst women into Frozen Four

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Courtesy of Mercyhurst
Mercyhurst junior Christine Bestland ranks fourth in the nation with 71 points.
Mercyhurst University
Mercyhurst hockey player Christine Bestland has a 2010 Upper Deck card as part of Canada's gold-medal winning Under-18 team.

Christine Bestland's Mercyhurst teammates know she's their captain, top scorer and one of the premier college hockey players in the country.

What might surprise some is that Bestland is so accomplished that she has her own Wikipedia page and hockey card.

“I didn't even know about that!” linemate Jenna Dingeldein said of the card, which is part of a 2010 Upper Deck series honoring Team Canada for winning gold at the Under-18 world championships. “I'll have to give her a hard time about it now.”

Bestland doesn't brag about the card, but she probably won't mind if her Wikipedia page needs an update after this weekend when Mercyhurst travels to Minneapolis for the Frozen Four. The eighth-ranked Lakers (29-6-1) take on third-ranked Boston University (27-5-3) at 9 p.m. Friday. The first semifinal pits defending national champion and top-ranked Minnesota (39-0-0) against fourth-ranked Boston College (27-6-3) at 6 p.m., and the title game is 3 p.m. Sunday.

“Every one of us has been dreaming to win a national championship,” said Bestland, a 5-foot-9 junior forward who ranks fourth in the nation with 71 points (28 goals, 43 assists).

Mercyhurst enters the weekend as the underdog. After knocking off No. 2 Cornell, 4-3, in overtime Saturday, winning a championship would require beating the No. 3 team Friday, and most likely, unbeaten Minnesota on Sunday.

“It would prove sometimes the impossible is possible,” said Lakers coach Michael Sisti, whose team also reached the Frozen Four in 2009 and '10. “I don't think anyone expects us to win a national championship, but we do. We've fought hard to get into this situation.”

If Mercyhurst can pull it off, Bestland likely will be at the center of things. She's used to the big stage after competing in numerous international tournaments as part of Canada's Under-22 and Under-18 teams.

She became accustomed to tough competition long before that. While growing up in Brunkild, Manitoba — a tiny town about 45 minutes southwest of Winnipeg — Bestland started playing against boys at age 4. It continued through eighth grade and paid dividends, she said.

“I feel like the pace helped me with my skating because I had to keep up with them,” she said. “(I learned about) bodychecking and being physical, and when I switched from boys to girls, I felt like I really had an advantage knowing how aggressive and faster the game can be.”

Bestland caught the attention of the Mercyhurst coaching staff as a 15-year-old. Even though the Erie campus was a 22-hour drive from Brunkild, Bestland said she loved everything about the school.

Bestland made an immediate impact, earning a spot on College Hockey America's all-rookie team and receiving conference player of the year honors this season.

“She does everything in the game — power play, penalty kill, 5-on-5,” Sisti said. “She plays well defensively and is obviously gifted offensively. She's done a good job of growing into a leader.”

Bestland's Wikipedia page might require more additions as the years progress. Although she is a long shot to represent Canada in next year's Olympics, the 20-year-old Bestland might be a candidate in 2018.

Said Sisti: “She's getting better all the time.”

Jeff Vella is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jvella@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JeffVella_Trib.

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