By Jon Waldman
Within the space of two Saturdays, a trio of Manitobans, guided on the bench by one of our province’s golden girls, became NCAA divisional hockey champions and, after an overtime battle earlier this weekend, are now headed to the vaunted NCAA Women’s Frozen Four.
Now, however, they’ll face three more Manitobans in the national semifinal this coming Friday.
The journey to Minneapolis begain this past Saturday for Mercyhurst, as Shelby Bram (St. Anne), Christine Bestland (Brunkild) and Kristine Grenier (St. Leon) helped the Mercyhurst Lakers overcome Syracuse Univeristy by a score of 4-1 to capture the College Hockey America championship. The team is co-coached by Pilot Mound’s Delaney Collins, a former member of the national Women’s Hockey Program who captured gold in the Winnipeg-hosted IIHF Women’s Hockey Championship in 2007.
Though the score may reflect a game that was easily in-hand for the Lakers, the output reflects a hard comeback by the team after falling behind 1-0 in the second.
“In between periods, it was very nerve-wracking being down,” Bram said, “but we got very excited and just gave it everything we had. We came out, potted one and the whole team just got motivated.”
Bestland, who was later named to the tournament all-star team, counted a goal and an assist in the contest, responding well to the pressure of being on one of the largest stages of her college career.
“It’s a lot of pressure but you have to treat it like any other game,” Bestland, the three-year Mercyhurst veteran, said following the contest. “If you don’t, you’re going to mess yourself up during the game and stress yourself out.”
The girls soldiered on to face ECAC Champions Cornell, in the NCAA Quarterfinals. The Big Red enter the tournament ranked number two and featured a Manitoban of their own – Morden’s Taylor Woods.
For Grenier, there were a number of challenges, but none greater than having the ability to come down from the high of Saturday’s championship win and move forward for the game against Cornell, a team that beat the Lakers during regular season play.
“It’s pretty tough,” the sophomore said during an interview following last Sunday’s announcement of the bracketing for the quarterfinals. “We give ourselves a little bit of time to enjoy the win and feel that joy, and then we have to come together to house those emotions for next weekend’s game.”
The game itself was a seesaw affair, which saw Mercyhurst lead 1-0 after the first period of play. Cornell, however, responded with two tallies of their own in the second to go ahead leading into the final frame of regulation play.
By the time the 10-minute mark of the third period hit, however, Mercyhurst had rallied back to tie the game and with just over a minute of play left, were able to gain a 3-2 advantage. Before the game could end, however, Cornell responded, leading to overtime, where Jenna Dingledein, a freshman, sealed the win and sent Mercyhurst to the championship tournament.
Manitobans will now get a chance to see the Mercyhurst trio take on another trio of Manitobans from Boston University — Britt Hergesheimer from East St. Paul, Janelle Kohanchuk from Winnipeg and Alexis Woloschuk from Winnipeg — who also stamped their ticket to the Women’s Frozen Four on Saturday by beating Harvard University.
The action between the two clubs will take place on Friday, March 22nd, with the NCAA Championship game taking place Sunday the 24th.