With the loss of six superstar seniors (Bailey Bram, Jess Jones, Hillary Pattenden, Kelley Steadman, Jill Szandzik and Pamela Zgoda), it would have been easy for many to write off the upcoming season for the Mercyhurst Lakers. With a visceral loss to the Robert Morris Colonials in the 2012 College Hockey America postseason championship game, it seemed like there was a changing of the guard.
Mercyhurst captain Christine Bestland has ensured that the Lakers reign as queens of the CHA continues. Just eight seconds into the first game of the season (against new CHA member Rochester Institute of Technology), Bestland assisted on a goal by Christie Cicero. Ten seconds later, Bestland scored to expand the Lakers lead to 2-0. Those eighteen seconds made a clear statement to the rest of the CHA that Bestland is ready to continue the legacies of Lakers legends such as Meghan Agosta, Vicki Bendus, Jesse Scanzano and Bailey Bram.
The second game against RIT saw the Lakers win by a 7-0 tally. Once again, Bestland factored in the final score. She would earn an assist in one of the three goals that freshman Emily Haniga scored, the first hat trick in her NCAA career. Bestland would finish the game with two goals and two assists.
While a 4-4 tie with Quinnipiac would become a classic match (with Quinnipiac’s Kelly Babstock becoming the first player in Quinnipiac history to score 50 career goals), Bestland would assist on a goal by Janiga that saw the Lakers take a 4-3 lead. Although Babstock’s goal would tie the game, Bestland continued to establish herself as an offensive force worthy of the captain’s "C" on her sweater.
In the following game against Quinnipiac, the No. 9 nationally ranked Lakers would not allow the Bobcats to earn another point against them. Bestland scored to give the Lakers a 4-1 lead in the third period. While the Bobcats scored two goals, Bestland’s marker proved to be the game winner. It placed on her on a four-game scoring streak, and a weekend performance of three points (one goal and two assists) against a very competitive Bobcats squad.
Although there are another four months in the season, this hot start by Bestland indicates that she is more than capable of putting the Lakers on her shoulders and bringing them to a ninth consecutive NCAA tournament, which would extend their NCAA record. Such a performance would not only make Bestland the MVP in CHA, but would put the prodigious scorer in consideration for the Patty Kazmaier Award.
An October 12 win versus the Providence Friars resulted in a three-assist performance. The end result was a 6-3 win. The following day, Bestland would provide an even more impressive display of her superlative skills. In a 5-0 shutout win, Bestland scored two consecutive goals within the first six minutes of the opening period. Her first goal came at the 48-second mark, while the second was at the 5:16 mark.
Freshman Emily Janiga would log one goal and three assists in the win. Goaltender Stephanie Ciampa would register her second shutout of the season as Mercyhurst improved to an 11-3 lifetime mark versus the Friars.
The six-point weekend for Bestland was her first since December 2011, when the Lakers swept the Lindenwood Lady Lions. Her 16 points lead all skaters in CHA and she is on pace to eclipse the 80-point mark. Six goals and ten assists for the season have made Bestland the offensive spark plug on an impressive Mercyhurst squad.