Jets Canadiens Hockey

Cole Caufield, right, joins the mob of Montreal Canadiens players celebrating an overtime goal by right wing Tyler Toffoli (73) against Winnipeg on Monday. Content Exchange

Cole Caufield was one of the first to get the NCAA hockey season going with the University of Wisconsin last November.

He doesn't seem to be in a hurry to wrap up things nearly seven months later.

Caufield's overtime assist Monday night helped the Montreal Canadiens complete a four-game sweep of the Winnipeg Jets in the second round of the NHL's Stanley Cup playoffs.

Caufield is the sixth player to win the Hobey Baker Award as NCAA men's hockey's top player and compete in the NHL playoffs in the same season. Montreal's 3-2 victory over the Jets made him only the second in that group to have his team get past the second round.

The other was Minnesota's Neal Broten, the first Hobey winner in 1981. He played in the Stanley Cup Final that year, but his Minnesota North Stars lost to the New York Islanders.

Caufield is the fourth among former Badgers players to go from college to the NHL playoffs the same year. Three have been with Montreal (David Maley in the Stanley Cup-winning 1986 season, Sean Hill in 1991 and Caufield); John Byce did it with Boston in 1990.

Maley, a forward who played for the Badgers from 1982 to 1986, is one of two players who has been on a Cup-winning team in the same year as finishing his college career, according to College Hockey Inc. North Dakota's Shane Gersich (Washington, 2018) is the other.

A look at former University of Wisconsin men's hockey players who have appeared in an NHL game during the 2020-21 season through April 28.

Caufield still has that chance with Montreal, which trailed 3-1 in a best-of-seven first-round series against Toronto before he helped start a comeback. The Stevens Point native assisted on Nick Suzuki's overtime goal in Game 5, the start of what has become a seven-game winning streak for the Canadiens.

Caufield's biggest fan has noticed that Montreal is 7-2 since the former Badgers star entered the lineup in Game 3 against Toronto.

The Canadiens will play the winner of the Colorado-Vegas series in the semifinals. The Avalanche and Golden Knights are tied 2-2 in a series that continues Tuesday night in Denver.

Caufield started his season with the Badgers on Nov. 13 as part of the first NCAA Division I men's hockey game of a delayed season. He won a gold medal with the U.S. at the World Junior Championship then helped UW win the Big Ten regular-season championship.

The only break in his season has been the week he had to spend in quarantine after signing with the Canadiens in March.

A reporter asked him before Sunday's Game 3 to reflect on the decision a year ago that had Caufield return to the Badgers for a second season. UW coach Tony Granato thought it was the best thing for the development of the high-scoring winger's total game.

"I think Tony was absolutely right," Caufield said. "Part of me wanted to make the jump, but it was what's best for my career to go back and get more experience.

"I think being mature and ready for the next step, it's a big step and something that I've had to make adjustments early on and day to day, too. So you learn from each game and you grow and make adjustments along the way. The guys made me feel pretty comfortable and the coaching staff has done a great job welcoming me in and teaching me real fast how to play here."

Caufield hasn't scored in nine playoff games but his assist Monday was his fourth.

Look back on State Journal coverage of Badgers men's hockey games in the 2020-21 season

Read stories from University of Wisconsin men's hockey games in the 2020-21 season.

This article originally ran on Content Exchange