Home Is Where The Heart Is
Updated: Aug 20, 2019
by Matthew Ondesko - Managing Editor Photos courtesy of Buffalo State College
Sometimes you just need to go away an experience something new. Sure, home is where the heart is, but to grow as an individual it’s important to experience life.
Now, that doesn’t mean you need to go across country to do it, but hey whatever works.
For Buffalo State College hockey player Cheyenne Matson playing hockey there weren’t many options coming out of Alaska for a hockey player. Playing hockey in Alaska is a little bit different than playing in Buffalo or Minnesota - where the opportunities are unlimited.
Because Alaska is so far from the states, the sport of hockey can get a little bit expensive, like it isn’t already.
“No, I always thought “if only I played somewhere else I could have had more opportunities and exposure,” but because I have a large family and very little money to spare, playing for an out-of-state travel team wasn’t really a luxury for us Matsons, especially during scarce times when we had to fund raise our own money to pay for the season. It’s hard living in Alaska for athletic reasons because it’s so far away from the states and gets ridiculously expensive at times,” stated Matson. “Playing men's hockey was consistently competitive no matter what team you’re on or where. Female hockey is completely different in a way that there are so many different levels of skill and very few teams to choose from in AK. Since hockey isn’t as popular for females in Alaska, I feel like it’s taken more seriously there because the girls who do play, want to be there. Here in Buffalo, you have unlimited amount of teams to choose from and compete against. I’ve discovered a lot of girls out here do it for fun rather than on that competitive level and that’s the big difference you’ll see between the two.”
Matson was a solid defenseman who was getting a lot of looks from schools in the states. Her type of play was a perfect fit for Buffalo State, who recruited her pretty hard.
In the end, Buffalo State was a perfect for for her as well. The small knit community of Western New York was a good fit for a girl from Alaska. The weather wasn’t bad either. But, it was the hockey.
The steady defenseman fit right into what the Bengals were doing. The girl from Alaska was making a name for herself during her first couple of years - and it showed when she took home honors after her sophomore year.
“Well, needless to say, I absolutely love playing defense. I think I play my best when I’m helping out in front of the net clearing pucks and breaking it out or on the point getting shots through. Joining the rush helps out the forwards because it gives them that reassurance of someone having their back. It also gives me an opportunity to create more scoring chances by stepping up and helping out when needed. Now that I’ve been playing offense this season, I understand how important and helpful it is for defense to jump up and join the rush. After all, it is a team sport and we can’t all rely on just one job,” stated Matson. “Receiving this award (second team All-NEWHL) as a sophomore and knowing there’s limited players selected for that team, I felt like all my hard work had finally been paying off. Personally, it was a major boost in my confidence and I had never felt so proud of myself before receiving that honor.”
That boost of confidence has helped Matson have a strong year for a very youthful Bengals squad. The Bengals have struggled at times, but Matson has taken more of a leadership role being an upperclassmen.
Matson knows that how she carries herself on and off the ice will go a long way in shaping the new look Bengals - as the younger girls look up to those who have been through the trenches already.
“I feel like no matter where I would have ended up, I would still be giving it everything I had on and off the ice,” stated Matson. “I still believe Buff State has been a perfect fit for me.”
As the snow falls on another cold February day in Western New York, it’s easy for Matson to think back about her time home in Alaska. The Buffalo weather has been a daunting one this winter - as mother nature has thrown everything but the kitchen sink at those who live here.
But, it’s all a learning experience for Matson. She loves how diverse the WNY community is - something that back home doesn’t have just yet.
“In my opinion, Alaska is probably the most serene and amazing place to live, but because the state is so new, there’s still so much landscape, nature and peace,” stated Matson. “Buffalo has so much life, art, and history behind it, something Alaska has yet to create.“