Masten and Bethel seek more milestones

As a freshman, Cristina Masten merely sought to contribute. In the final game of 2013, the Bethel senior arrived full circle in knocking home a late third-period goal in a one-sided win over Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

To the eventual outcome, the scoring play was relatively immaterial. In the larger scope however, Masten’s goal, with 1:12 left, etched her name in the Royals’ record books as the program’s all-time leading scorer.

Masten’s three-point performance in the win over the Blugolds eclipsed previous record-holder Bethany Murphy-Aultman, who concluded her career in 2008-09 with 41 goals and 105 points.

Masten’s potentially most productive season is in perfect symmetry with her teammates, who are on pace for the highest winning percentage in team history. The Royals have teased the top 10 rankings from the outset, and at 9-2-2 overall (5-1-1 MIAC), topping a program high 15 victories is well within reach.

Coach Brian Carlson, who is also in his fourth season in St. Paul, has been the architect of the two 15-win win campaigns in program history. In his initial season in 2010-11 with the Royals, the team finished 15-10-2. Masten scored 14 times that year, finishing third on the club in scoring, and most importantly, establishing the offensive skills that the Royals sought.

“My time at Bethel has been everything I have wanted and more,” said Masten about her four-year run with the Royals. “I have played under great coaches and alongside some amazing hockey players and friends.”

Record-setting moment aside, Carlson’s crew is squarely focused on the immediate future.

“Conference play is very competitive,” Carlson said in regard to what is sure to become a torrid race down the stretch. “If you aren’t ready to play, you will likely pay a price. A common trait of highly successful programs is consistency. That is who we want to be.”

The Royals are two points behind MIAC leader Gustavus Adolphus heading into weekend action against St. Mary’s. Carlson’s charges began their current eight-game unbeaten run in late November. Masten has recorded 11 points in the current streak. She is ranked ninth in the nation in scoring.

After a first half shakeout, the MIAC title chase is most likely down to a quartet that includes St. Thomas and St. Catherine along with the Golden Gusties and Royals.

“We need to have that to consistently win games,” Carlson said. “Our goal for the second half is to get better at all parts of the game, specifically special teams and the level of consistency and intensity we play with, period by period, game to game,”

Nationally, the Royals are ranked 12th in power play efficiency and 13th in penalty killing.

“Conference play is intense and there are no easy games,” Carlson said, peering ahead. “Five out of 10 teams make the playoffs.”

Masten, a native of Fergus Falls, Minn., is unquestionably on board with Carlson’s insistence on the value of retaining momentum for the remainder of the regular season.

“The most important thing for us is to remain focused for every game and practice,” she said. “In order to continue in the direction that we want our team to go, we need to make sure that we are improving every day. If we focus on all the little things that need to get done day in and day out, the big things like the MIAC race and the top 10 will take care of itself.”

Sophomore Caroline Kivisto and junior Kalie Johnson have supplemented Masten’s contribution to the team’s offensive profile. Also, six freshmen have registered points for the Royals thus far.

“With our team being as young as it is, our upperclassmen have been doing a good job of keeping everyone on the same page and being a support system for the younger players,” Masten said in redirecting the spotlight from her personal contribution to Bethel’s hopeful rise to national prominence. “I view my role on the team as someone who goes out to practice and works hard every day. In regards to the newcomers on the team, I try to be someone that they can reach out to if they have questions or need help with something.”

Carlson appreciates the no-nonsense attitude that encompasses Masten’s approach to the game.

“She is a quiet leader, who leads by example. These attributes are evident in everything she does, and have brought success both on and off the ice.”