Oddly enough, it was an online search engine for schools with her major that started the process that brought Courtney Carnes to Buffalo State. Even more strange, she has changed majors.

But Carnes, a Winslow High School graduate, is still at Buffalo State, and is the fourth-leading scorer on the women’s ice hockey team.

“I love it here,” Carnes said. “We’re about five minutes from the Peace Bridge, which goes right into Canada. We’re about 20 minutes from Niagara Falls. It’s a really good city. I really enjoy it.”

After graduating from Winslow, Carnes spent a year at the University of Southern Maine and played for the Portland Jr. Lady Pirates. At that point, she wanted to go into the field of forensic science, and was looking for another school.

“I was looking into changing majors,” Carnes said. “I basically did a Google search of all the schools in New England and New York that had forensic science. Buffalo State came up.”

Carnes did a little more research into Buffalo State, found out the school has a hockey team, and contacted coach Rob Burke, who saw her play that summer. Burke said he realized immediately that Carnes had the skills to play at the Division III level. Carnes has good hands, can score in traffic, and with her long arms, she can protect the puck with her body.

“The offensive aspects of her game were something we wanted to bring in here,” Burke said. “We have a history of not scoring a lot of goals.”

But Burke also wanted to develop Carnes into more of a two-way player. In effect, he told Carnes that summer, “You play very hard and with a lot of passion when you’re near or have the puck. Without the puck, not so much.”

Carnes, who is now a Health and Wellness major with a concentration in Sports Nutrition, worked on her game, but got sidetracked. her freshman year, she was injured before Thanksgiving, and didn’t fully recover until this season.

“I tore a bunch of ligaments and tendons in my shoulder, and ended up fracturing my collarbone,” Carnes said.

Finally back at full strength, Carnes has also become the player Burke envisioned. She plays center, and has six goals and three assists in 17 games this season.

“This year, she really has turned it around,” Burke said. “She’s a complete hockey player now. She’s come a long, long way this past year. It may have taken her a long ways to get to this point, but I don’t think she’s going to turn back. The years I’ve had her, she’s definitely, far and away, playing the best hockey I’ve ever seen her play.”

“It definitely improved my game a lot,” Carnes said. “It gives you more of a drive, once you get the puck in the defensive end. It definitely motivates you to be a better player.”

Burke adds that Carnes is a little more mature this season, although he is also quick to say that she fits the cliché of being a good citizen of the program.

“My first year, it was definitely more about me personally than about the team as a whole,” Carnes said. “I was a little selfish.”

Carnes is also quite a presence during games. At 5-foot-7, she’s the tallest player on the team, and she’s not afraid of contact. This season, she’s been whistled for 10 penalties, all minors.

“She’s 5-7, but she looks bigger out on the ice because she’s a very upright skater,” Burke said. “When Courtney’s on the ice, you can hear the ice cutting under her skates.”

“It’s a little harder for me, because I’m so much bigger than everyone else,” Carnes said. “When I’m physical with them, they fall a lot easier, so it looks bad.

“But,” Carnes added with a laugh, “I’m proud to say I don’t have the most penalty minutes on the team.”

Buffalo State is 3-6-1 in conference play this season and still has a shot at the playoffs. The Bengals have a big two-game series beginning tonight with Oswego.

Matt DiFilippo — 861-9243

[email protected]


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