With a quick shot and a distinctive “ping” off of the red crossbar, Esko native Karson Kuhlman had his first playoff goal with the Boston Bruins in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup playoffs Sunday, June 9. The Bruins won 5-1 Sunday against the St. Louis Blues and tied up the playoffs, forcing a Game 7 on home ice in Boston on Wednesday, June 12.
Kuhlman, 23, is modest about his achievement.
“I was more excited about the win to keep the game going,” Karson said.
Photos of the game show Karson with a huge grin hugging teammates on the ice and celebrating his goal.
His parents, Dean and Jennifer, and brother, Jack, were watching the playoff game from their home in Esko when he scored.
His mom was sitting in the living room with her rally towel watching the game.
“I started jumping up and down with my rally towel,” Jennifer said with a laugh. “We were all screaming. It was fun.”
Karson began his hockey career as a Mini-Mite in Esko, followed by a move to Cloquet-Esko-Carlton hockey, as Esko’s program usually stops at Squirt level. He played two years of high school hockey for the Lumberjacks before playing Juniors with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, a Tier I team in Dubuque, Iowa, during his senior year of high school.
He came back home to graduate from Esko with his classmates before heading off to join the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. He saw success with the Bulldogs, culminating with a national championship in 2018.
His mother was at work when her son called shortly after the Bulldogs' win and informed her he was going to Boston. Dean had stopped in her office and Jennifer put Karson on speakerphone.
“That will be fun,” Jennifer responded. “Why?”
No, her son said and stressed that he was going to Boston. Then Jennifer understood.
Once more, they followed their son around the country to watch him play hockey.
In 2018, Karson played in exhibition games for the Boston Bruins. They sent him down to play in their primary development team in the American Hockey League, the Providence Bruins.
“He would get pulled up every once in a while,” Jennifer said. “He literally went to practice one morning and was getting ready when he was told he was playing in Boston that night.”
He played in a game against the Minnesota Wild in April. Most of his family was cheering in the stands. His parents, however, watched it from Las Vegas on TV due to a previous commitment.
His parents took turns attending the first two Stanley Cup playoff games.
“It killed me not to be there Sunday night,” Jennifer said.
When Karson called home after scoring his playoff goal he asked his parents what they were doing Wednesday, June 12.
“We’re going to a hockey game,” Jennifer replied.
Karson said he always believed he would play professional hockey someday, although he doesn't think it's much different than playing at the college level. He is enjoying the experience and said it was an easy transition for him.
His parents are ecstatic to see Karson's hard work paying off and his lifelong goal to play professional hockey come true.
“I don't know if there are words to describe it,” Jennifer said.
And what will Karson be doing before Game 7 on Wednesday?
“I’ll have a nap in the afternoon and a cup of coffee or two,” Karson said. “Nothing too crazy.”