StaTuesday: Wisconsin’s Caufield packs a big scoring punch

Cole Caufield might one of the shorter hockey players around, but the Wisconsin Badgers forward packs a big punch.

Caufield, a 5-foot-7 sophomore from Stevens Point, Wis., is showing why he was a first-round selection (No. 15 overall) by Montreal in 2019 NHL draft.

The smallest player on the Badgers’ roster, Caufield has 14 goals — all of which have come in the past 14 games — and 14 assists.

He leads the nation in goals — two ahead of the competition — and is tied in points with Quinnipiac senior forward Odeen Tufto (four goals, 24 assists). Among players who have appeared in 10 games this season, only two — RIT’s Will Calverley (1.6667 in 12 games) and teammate Dylan Holloway (1.6000 in 10 games) have a better points per game than Caufield (1.5556 in 18 games).

Caufield has been especially hot as of late. He has a goal in five straight games — including back-to-back contests with two pucks in the net against Michigan State — as well as in six of his last seven and eight of his last 10. For what it’s worth, no Wisconsin player has had an eight-game goal streak since Jason Zent did it in eight straight during the 1991-92 season. The Badgers single-season goal-streak record is nine, set by Steve Alley in 1976 and John Byce in 1990. Mark Johnson had a 10-game streak over two seasons.

Caufield has recorded at least one point in every contest since Dec. 3 — a 10-game point streak. He’s the 37th player since 1976-77 to have a double-digit point streak. The last to do it was Cameron Hughes, who had a 12-game streak (five goals, 11 assists) from Jan. 6-Feb. 18, 2017. No Wisconsin player has had a point streak of 13+ games since Nic Kerdiles, who had an 18-game streak over two seasons from Feb. 24-Nov. 1, 2013. The last to have a 13+-game streak in one season was Mark Zengerle, when he had a point in 20 consecutive games from Nov. 8, 2011-Jan. 13, 2012. Mike Eaves has the longest point streak since 1976-77 at 21 games during the 1977-78 season.

Whether Caufield can continue those streaks remains to be seen. There is a good shot, however, of him reaching 20 goals. No Wisconsin player has done that since 2016-17, when another sophomore, Luke Kunin, notched 22 goals that season in 35 games.

Since 2000, only seven Badgers have reached the 20-goal mark: Michael Davies, Robbie Earl (twice), Blake Geoffrion, Dany Heatley, Kunin, Michael Mersch (twice) and Joe Pavelski.

Of course, all those above-mentioned players appeared in a lot more games than Caufield, as Wisconsin, in this slightly shortened pandemic season, will play just 28 regular-season games.

This makes Caufield’s goal-scoring exploits even more impressive. He’s averaging 0.78 goals per game. To put that in perspective, the last Badgers player who had 20+ goals in a season and averaged more goals per game was Gary Shuchuk, at 0.91 (41 goals in 45 games) as a senior in 1989-90. Senior Chris Tancill also had 0.87 goals per game (39 in 45 games) that same season. The closest to Caufield’s current mark since that year was Heatley, who had 0.74 (28 goals in 38 games) in 1999-2000.

If Caufield can keep his goal-scoring pace at his current rate (or better), it would be the highest goals per game average by a Wisconsin sophomore since … his head coach Tony Granato (0.79; 33 goals in 42 games) in 1984-85.

Wisconsin plays at Minnesota on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 5-6 at 7 p.m., with both games airing on FOX Sports Wisconsin PLUS.

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