This Q&A ran in the Buckeye hockey gameday program vs. the U.S. National Under-18 Team Jan. 15.
A nomad of sorts, Paul Kirtland has lived in six different states already. His hometown is listed as Lenexa, Kansas, but the freshman forward considers North Carolina to be home. Kirtland has found a new home in Columbus as a member of the Ohio State men’s hockey team. He scored his first career goal in a 4-2 win over Western Michigan earlier this season. Being away from school for two years posed a difficult transition for Kirtland. He overcame it, though, and hopes to play an important role the rest of the season.
Having lived all over the country, where do you consider home?
“I’ve lived in six states either with my family or playing hockey (North Carolina, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Alaska, Kansas and Ohio). It’s hard to say where I consider home. My parents live in Kansas now, but I’ve only been there in the summers. I’d probably call North Carolina home if I had to.”
Does the state of Kansas have much hockey history?
“Yeah, they have a really good Triple A team, Russell Stover. I played on it and there are about a dozen other guys who played there who play in Division I now. There was even a guy drafted by the Dallas Stars a couple years ago. It’s gotten a lot bigger. The fan support is good. Almost all their games are full.”
What differences have you noticed in college hockey compared to previous levels?
“Size and strength are the biggest differences. Everyone is bigger and stronger and you have a lot more consistency coming at you. In juniors you can get away with stuff every now and then. Here, you have skilled guys coming at you every shift so you have to bring it every night.”
What are ways to combat those differences and get on a level field?
“Working hard in the weight room and getting my strength up so I can do better against the bigger guys in the corner is key. I also need to improve my conditioning and speed.”
How was the adjustment to academics and hockey at the same time?
“It took me by surprise a little bit at first. I was out of school for a while so combining that with hockey was tough. The time management was hard. You have to make yourself do the homework and it can get tiring later in the week. I think everyone wishes we would’ve done better on the ice, too. We have the second half of the season now and it is up to us to dictate how we play and finish the season.”
Your dad coached at the University of Connecticut. Has he been the biggest influence on you in your career?
“Yeah, he was always my coach from squirts through midget. I contribute a lot of my success to him. After I left home, I played in prep school and then juniors. But it all started with him pushing me and helping me.”
What is key for the team to have a successful second half of the season?
“We just need to take it one game at a time and keep putting it together and make a run this second half. I want to be more consistent and hopefully get myself in the lineup to help the team. You know what to expect now coming in to the second half and you are refreshed. I think we’re feeling good heading into the weekend.”