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Cole Caufield's teammates pull a prank before the former Badgers star's NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens

Cole Caufield's teammates pull a prank before the former Badgers star's NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens

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Canadiens Flames Hockey

Montreal Canadiens' Cole Caufield, left, checks Calgary Flames' Dillon Dube during the second period on Monday.

It started as a joke on Cole Caufield — a rookie prank of sorts.

When the former University of Wisconsin forward looked around the dressing room for his helmet before warmups Monday night in Calgary, he realized what was going on.

Caufield's new teammates with the Montreal Canadiens hid his lid. There's a tradition in the NHL that a player skating in his first game takes a solo lap around the ice in warmups before the rest of the team joins him, and Caufield had to let his hair blow in the wind.

"That's not going to bother him," Badgers coach Tony Granato said, laughing. "That's right up his alley. They're feeding right into making him be really comfortable really fast."

Caufield made his NHL debut in Montreal's 2-1 victory against the Flames. He didn't score like he did — twice — in his first American Hockey League game April 9 but he got to start, played regular shifts and worked on the power play.

He became the 88th Badgers alumnus to play in the NHL and the third to break through this season, joining defensemen K'Andre Miller (New York Rangers) and Wyatt Kalynuk (Chicago).

The Stevens Point native is the 40th Wisconsinite to play in the NHL, according to Hockey Reference but none of the previous 11 had also played for the Badgers.

Former University of Wisconsin men's hockey player Cole Caufield discusses his first NHL game for the Montreal Canadiens, a 2-1 victory at Calgary on Monday, April 26, 2021. Video courtesy Montreal Canadiens.

It took Caufield less than a minute to generate his first scoring chance, a wrist shot that he fired high from the right side on a rush.

It should have surprised no one that Caufield was confident enough on his first NHL shift to try to pick a corner. He hit a lot of them in scoring 30 times in 31 games for the Badgers this season.

"He has that elite shot," said Robbie Beydoun, the former Badgers goalie who was Caufield's roommate in Madison this year. "He's comfortable ripping the puck from anywhere, as we know. And he can pick those corners. (Jacob) Markstrom made a couple nice saves on Cole's chances tonight. But it's not going to be too long before he starts picking goalies apart in the NHL for sure."

Caufield had to wait through the first four games of Montreal's five-game road trip to Alberta before he got his chance to play with the Canadiens. He signed a day after his sophomore season with UW ended, then waited out a weeklong quarantine before joining the Laval Rocket in the AHL.

The hype meter jumped a few more notches for the 2019 first-round pick when he scored twice on the same night that he won the Hobey Baker Award as the top NCAA player.

But Montreal has a delicate position with the salary cap and the number of minor league recalls it can make. An injury and some player shuffling finally opened up a spot and the cap space Monday.

Caufield finished with four shots on goal after missing his first attempt. He played 15:40, 2:02 of it on the power play.

"I thought he played really well," Granato said. "He's got to be really happy with it."

His teammates were messing with him before the game but Caufield earned valuable social media respect for his hair.

"He looked great," Beydoun said. "That's exactly how I imagined it. Helmet off, his hair flowing, him smiling. He has that infectious smile that really lights up a team."

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.

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Ty Pelton-Byce scored twice for the Badgers, including the tying goal with 26.8 seconds left after UW let two third-period leads slip away.

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Coach Tony Granato went down the lineup in handing out individual laurels for good chances created, hits dished out or composed plays in the defensive zone.

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The Badgers erase the sour taste of their largest loss of the season with their first victory at Michigan in their past eight tries.

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A four-goal second period by the Wolverines was the difference after the Badgers took the lead.

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No. 11 UW is alone atop the conference standings after completing its first series sweep at Minnesota in 12 years with an emphatic 8-1 victory against the second-ranked Golden Gophers.

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Cole Caufield broke a tie with seven minutes remaining and Dylan Holloway figured in two goals in the following 2:18 as Wisconsin beat Minnesota 4-1.

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Cole Caufield scores two goals for the second straight game and Linus Weissbach records his first three-point game of the season.

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Robbie Beydoun stopped 19 shots for his second shutout of the season.

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After falling behind 3-0 in the first period, the Badgers couldn't pull all the way back with a late push.

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The Badgers scored two power-play goals to win at Penn State for the first time in five tries.

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A third-period penalty kill was "probably the biggest five minutes of our season so far," Badgers coach Tony Granato said.

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UW freshman Cameron Rowe makes 11 saves for his first shutout.

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The Badgers outshot the Gophers but paid the price for turnovers, a slow line change and a bad penalty.

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Beydoun made 35 saves as the Badgers knocked off the Gophers in their first game since Dec. 4.

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Cameron Rowe made 40 saves in his first collegiate start as the Badgers split a series at the Buckeyes.

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The Badgers have lost all three games since four forwards became unavailable due to COVID-19 protocol.

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Sophomore Jax Murray scored his first two collegiate goals for the Sun Devils as the Badgers fell to .500.

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The Badgers were missing five forwards, one of whom sources said was held out because of a positive COVID-19 test and three others who were close contacts.

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Caufield had his second hat trick for the Badgers and Tarek Baker scored a key short-handed goal.

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Robbie Beydoun made a career-high 49 saves for the Badgers.

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Missing their top two centers, the Badgers nearly emerged with a split against the sixth-ranked Wolverines.

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The Wolverines scored three times in the final 5 minutes, 22 seconds of the second period to turn a deficit into a two-goal lead going into the intermission.

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Dylan Holloway's third-period goal put the Badgers ahead for good after they lost two-goal and one-goal leads.

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Linus Weissbach helped provide the offense and Robbie Beydoun was a stable presence in goal in the Badgers' 2-0 victory over No. 20 Notre Dame.

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Holloway scored twice on the power play to lead the Badgers past the Buckeyes.

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If a 7-0 victory against Ohio State at LaBahn Arena was Cole Caufield's last time playing at home for the Badgers, it was the kind of effort UW fans will want to remember him by.

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Robbie Beydoun, playing in his home state, makes 28 saves as the Badgers keep the heat on Minnesota in the chase for the Big Ten title.

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Cole Caufield scores twice to give the Badgers a 2-1 victory at Michigan State and the Big Ten title on the final day of the regular season.

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Cole Caufield scored his 27th goal of the season 6 minutes, 50 seconds into the extra session to send the fifth-ranked Badgers past the Nittany Lions 4-3 on Monday in the Big Ten semifinals.

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The Badgers paid for a lackluster effort in the second period as the Gophers beat UW for the first time in six championship-round games.

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Bemidji State was the aggressor from the beginning and kept UW from playing the brand of hockey it has used to generate scoring chances.

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