Josh Kuehmichel, Hopkins boys' hockey
In the interest of keeping a cool head in often hectic situations, Hopkins senior goalie Josh Kuehmichel strays from the country or hip-hop musical selections that make up the typical soundtrack of a hockey locker room. He prefers a calmer approach, seeking out relaxing electronica or smooth jazz.
“I don’t like to get too pumped up,” he said. “I’ll find some slow electronic music or even jazz and go with that.”
The soothing technique, which he learned from his goalie coach, has been vital to his success thus far. He’s played every minute of Hopkins’ first eight games in goal, winning seven of them with a 1.87 goals against average and a .936 save percentage.
Staff writer Jim Paulsen talked to Kuehmichel about his great start, which has already included a season-defining victory.
Q: A 7-1 record so far. The season has started off well.
A: It’s started off really well. We’ve won all the games we thought we would win. We’ve got great depth this year with three strong lines and 10 seniors who have grown up playing together.
Q: You played in the high school Elite League this fall. How much did that affect your game?
A: It helped a lot. It’s my first year doing it, and you go up against some of the top players in the state. It’s a lot faster pace, people move the puck much faster and they shoot harder. When I transitioned back to the high school game, it seemed a lot slower and easier to follow.
Q: How did you end up playing in the Elite League?
A: It kind of came out of the blue. You have to get asked to try out. I got an e-mail that said they were having junior tryouts in August. I tried out and I made it.
Q: That had to feel pretty good, to get asked to play with the state’s best high school players.
A: I did feel pretty excited. It was kind of surreal, really. I didn’t think I’d ever be asked to play. It’s really helped me step up my game.
Q: Playing goalie comes with inherent pressure. How do you handle that?
A: I love the pressure. I think I thrive on it. That’s where the calming music helps. If you give up a goal, you have to move past it. It’s over and done with. You can’t dwell on it.
Q: Easier said than done. How do you move past it?
A: Instead of saying, “I’m not going to give another goal,” you say, “I’m going to stop the next shot.” If you’re thinking about goals and giving them up, you will.
Q: What has been your toughest game this season?
A: Playing Hermantown, for sure. They were the most physical, and they moved the puck incredibly as a team.
Q: But Hopkins won [2-1 on Dec. 6] and you had a great game. You made 54 saves.
A: I felt like I was keeping the team in the game. I kind of knew the whole game that I was on.
Q: You were stopping everything in the game. Could you see the Hermantown players getting frustrated?
A: Yeah, definitely. During the game, some of them were slamming their sticks on the ice and hitting their sticks on the boards when they went to the bench. That’s how I knew I was doing my job.
Q: Your strengths as a goalie?
A: I think I’m seeing the puck good, and I’m reacting quickly. I have good lateral movement. I’ve been working on that a lot.
Q: What is the part of hockey that grabs you on a gut level?
A: Home games. I love coming on to the ice before the first period and the whole crowd is cheering and music is playing and the players are flying around while I’m stretching.