While scouring through Division I hockey programs, Courtney Kukow- ski was looking for the total package: cohesive team, knowledgeable coaching staff, an inspiring and comfortable campus with a strong academic pedigree.
The Eastview star found what she was looking for at Providence College. And although it's almost 1,500 miles from her high school, she'll find many familiar faces on campus and in the locker room.
The Friars' 2012-13 roster has 11 Minnesotans, including five other new recruits who are Kukowski's friends: Lexi Slattery, Molly Illikainen, Prentice Basten, Allie Morse and Brittney Thunstrom.
Kukowski insists that didn't have anything to do with her decision.
"I did take out the whole friend factor because I didn't want to base where I'm going off my friends and all that," said Kukowski, who scored 84 points in 50 games during her junior and senior seasons. "It wasn't really a decision-maker. It was just a big bonus that a lot of my friends ended up going there."
A bonus, indeed. Kukowski has developed relationships throughout her years of various hockey training programs, camps and teams. Most recently, she has been working out with current and future Friars at First Athlete in Edina this summer.
"I definitely think it's good going out there knowing a lot of people that I'm comfortable with and that'll help me make new friends having friends already there," she said.
One of her good friends already is out East: former longtime teammate and linemate Emily Snodgrass, who put up copious amounts of points at Eastview with Kukowski two years ago. Snodgrass just finished her freshman season at the University of Connecticut, whom Providence will face off against a few times every season.
"Which is going to be so weird. I played with her for so long on the same line," Kukowski said.
Snodgrass gave her rave reviews about playing out East, bolstering Kukowski's excitement about doing the same. While Connecticut was a program in which she showed interest, the Rhode Island school won her heart.
Unable to pass to Snodgrass anymore -- "It'll be tough," she laughed -- Kukowski will try to do what she does best: create scoring opportunities. With great skating ability, vision and puck-handling skills, the forward can be an assist machine.
"People usually say I'm the setter-upper," she said.
Lightning coach Herb Harvey got to experience the dynamic, gifted playmaker at Eastview. He knew Division I schools would come calling.
Now that Providence has her locked up, the Friars know exactly what they're getting.
"Courtney is a point producer," Providence coach Bob Deraney said in a news release. "Her ability around the net is something every coach is looking to add to the lineup. She has the ability to contribute immediately to our offense, and there is a lot of room for her to improve over her four years with us. We look forward to helping her grow into the player she is capable of becoming."
Kukowski started playing high school hockey as an eighth-grader, but she didn't explore the possibility of playing college hockey until she was a sophomore. She then started putting in the extra work necessary to achieve her goals.
"I decided I wanted to play as long as I could because I just love the sport so much," Kukowski said.
Now she has the opportunity to extend that lifestyle for at least another four years.