From the Catbird Seat...Kuhlman calls home from Dubuque
For Cloquet’s Karson Kuhlman, a second stint in the United States Hockey League is paying big dividends.
After joining the Dubuque Fighting Saints late in the 2011-12 campaign, the Esko native and former Cloquet-Esko-Carlton standout played for Dubuque at the end of the season last year and is having a solid season this winter as well.
Kuhlman helped the Saints to both the Anderson Cup championship as the league’s regular season champions and the Clark Cup as the playoff champions last winter. While this year hasn’t been quite as ringing a success as last season, the benefits are still there.
“It’s been going great in Dubuque,” Kuhlman said. “We’re fighting for a playoff spot now and having a lot of fun.”
Kuhlman is third on the team in scoring with 19 goals and 16 assists for 35 points in 43 games for the Saints, who are tied for second in the league’s Eastern Conference with a 28-15-4 record as of this writing. The team trails first place Indiana by 11 points.
“I’ve been putting up some good numbers, and playing with lots of skilled players,” Kuhlman said.
Kuhlman is also his team’s most accurate shooter, needing only 98 shots on goal to tally 19 times. Seven of his 19 goals have come on the power play.
Playing on a wing, Kuhlman has honed his game to prepare for his entry into the NCHC next season with UMD.
“I think I’ve learned a lot down here,” he said. “I’ve been playing against older and more mature players, and that’s helped my game a lot.”
Kuhlman says the pace of the game in Junior A is faster.
“Everything happens quicker in this league,” he said. “The pace is helping me develop as a player and everything happens much faster than before. College is going to be another step up. Everyone’s older, faster and stronger. I can’t wait for it to start.”
The Bulldogs are keeping close tabs on their prize recruit and they are doing it through a player well known to Kuhlman.
Assistant coach Derek Plante talks regularly with Kuhlman about his progress.
“I talk with him regularly,” Kuhlman said. “It’s awesome. We always have a lot to talk about. He’s a great guy and I respect him a lot as player and a coach. He always has good insight.”
For now, Kuhlman is coached by Matt Shaw, a former assistant coach with the Wild, New Jersey Devils and San Jose Sharks.
“The coaching staff is great,” Kuhlman said. “Coach Shaw has been around the game for his whole life, he’s been an NHL assistant, he’s been to every level and done everything.”
While Kuhlman kept close tabs on his ex-teammates in Cloquet, he maintains that leaving the program was the best move for him.
“I talk with the old buddies, and of course my little brother [Jack] plays on that team,” Kuhlman said. “We talk about their games all the time and my dad keeps me updated too.
“But it was my decision to leave (CEC) and I don’t regret it,” Kuhlman added. “I had my fun in Cloquet, and it was one of the best times of my life playing high school hockey. But this was the right decision for me.”
Kuhlman hasn’t yet decided on his area of study at UMD — which will be an important consideration once his junior hockey days are done.
“It’s still kind of up in the air,” he said. “I’m still interested in business and that is probably what I will end up pursuing.”
That, and another Clark Cup.