In what continues to be an exciting trend for women’s hockey, elite North American talents are bringing their skills to other corners of the globe. Among the female players continuing their careers throughout Europe, Asia, and Australia, a remarkable number of alumnae from the Mercyhurst Lakers are leading the way.
Prior to joining the CWHL’s Brampton Thunder, Jess Jones led her club team from Belarus to unprecedented heights. Former Clarkson Cup champion and Team USA alum Kelley Steadman traveled to Russia to compete for Lokomotiv. Among a rare group of women to play for Canada’s U18, U22 and Senior teams, Bailey Bram skated for a team in Sweden, winning over new fans.
Adding to such an impressive list is 2014 graduate Christine Bestland. A former member of the Manitoba provincial team and a Hockey Canada alum, Bestland was also featured on a hockey card in Upper Deck’s 2011 World of Sport set.
Having served as the Lakers captain in her senior season, Bestland was named College Hockey America Player of the Year in 2013 and 2014. A member of the NCAA’s 200-point club, she continued the proud tradition of excellence that has established Mercyhurst as one of the finest NCAA schools for women’s hockey.
Suiting up for the defending champion Melbourne Ice in the Australian Women’s Hockey League (AWHL), Bestland is the second Canadian player in as many seasons to compete with the club. During the 2013-14 season, goaltender Liz Knox (who was a teammate of Bram’s during the 2012-13 CWHL season) stood between the pipes for the Ice, compiling one of the best records in the league.
During the 2014-15 AWHL campaign, Bestland (who donned number 72) had the chance to skate alongside Alivia Del Basso, the first Australian player to compete in NCAA hockey. A member of the Australian national team, the pioneering Del Basso competed for Shannon Miller with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, also becoming the first Australian to register a point in NCAA play.
Of note, Del Basso led all members of the Ice in scoring with 31 points, while Bestland ranked second with 27. In addition, Bestland’s 17 goals was a team-high, complemented by her 2.7 points per game and astounding +23 rating. Their collaborative efforts were essential in the Ice enjoying an undefeated season, finishing 17 points ahead of the second-place Adelaide Adrenaline.
Statistically, Bestland had some sparkling performances for the Ice during the season. In addition to recording a multi-point effort in every game that she played during the season, she logged an astounding six points (on the strength of five goals) in a convincing 11-1 triumph against the Brisbane Goannas on January 17, 2015.
Although Bestland possesses a great set of world class skills, which could qualify for any roster in the CWHL and/or the NWHL, the reality is that the experiences are just as important as the game itself. Many outstanding female players are spending a season or two overseas because they can. Among the rewarding opportunities, the chance to experience a new culture and live in another part of the world presents a sort of revitalization and renewed perspective with hockey as its universal language.
Overall, the fact that Australian fans were given the opportunity to appreciate Bestland’s world-class talents only adds relevance to the AWHL. As the IIHF continues to work towards growing the game worldwide, remarkable competitors such as Bestland are helping to realize that dream.
Photo credit: MJ Wragg Photography
Champions photo obtained from: http://www.awihl.com.au/2015/03/awihl-draws-to-a-close-after-another-great-season/