Even in a pandemic-dominated season, there was no slowing down Wisconsin’s Cole Caufield.
The sophomore forward registered 30 goals and 52 points in 31 games, one of the most dominating offensive performances in recent memory. He helped lead Wisconsin to its first regular-season title since 2000 and the program’s first NCAA bid since 2014.
Those are just the tip of the iceberg to summarize such a significant season that has earned Caufield USCHO’s Player of the Year. The award is voted on by USCHO’s Division I men’s writers and editors.
Caufield’s goal scoring obviously stood out. His 30 goals were 11 more than Minnesota’s Sampo Ranta who was second with 19 goals.
But what was notable about Caufield was his play down the stretch as the Badgers chased their first-ever Big Ten regular-season championship. From February 1 on, Caufield scored 16 goals. No other player in that span scored more than 11 and only four players besides Caufield notched more than eight.
Caufield, who signed with the Montreal Canadiens after his season was completed, ended his collegiate career with a six-game goal scoring streak. Over those six games, he scored 11 goals, making voting for any postseason awards a mostly rote exercise.
“Hockey is the best thing to do in this world,” said Caufield. “Any time I get out there, I just have the best time.
Caufield, who became the second Badger to capture the Hobey Baker Award this season, attributes his success simply to hard work.
“You work hard and that’s where the offense comes,” Caufield noted. “You put in the work and time coming back into the D zone and stopping, you get in the offensive zone and you have to have some patience.
“I’m always learning.”
As prolific a goal scorer as Caufield has emerged to be, he is quick to admit that nothing comes natural and nothing comes easy. Even when he was seemingly scoring at will, he never entered a game simply knowing he was going to score. That seems a mark of a true competitor.
“It’s about getting your chances and hitting the net,” Caufield said. “As long as I’m doing that and creating offensive zone pressure and having the puck on my stick, that’s where I’m having the most success.”
That success has translated regardless of the uniform he has worn this season. Besides his success with the Badgers, Caufield won gold as a member of the U.S. Under-20 team at the World Junior tournament. In seven games, Caufield scored twice and added three assists for the gold-medal American team.
After concluding the season with Wisconsin, Caufield has moved on to play for Laval in the AHL. After scoring two goals and an assist in his first professional game the same night he was awarded the Hobey Baker, he’s followed that with another goal his next time out. He now sits on the taxi squad for the Canadiens, hoping for a chance this season to prove his ability at hockey’s top level.