In their two seasons together with the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, Owen Lindmark and Cole Caufield had rather different experiences.
While Caufield was getting heaps of attention for setting the elite program’s goal-scoring record, Lindmark played a supporting role behind a group of talented forwards.
When they played their first game with the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team at the Kohl Center on Friday, the freshmen were on equal footing in providing an attention-grabbing victory.
Lindmark and Caufield each scored twice in the 17th-ranked Badgers’ 6-2 victory against No. 3 Minnesota Duluth in the home opener.
The 17th-ranked Badgers play their home opener against the third-ranked Bulldogs at the Kohl Center.
Lindmark broke a 2-2 tie in the second period and added a short-handed goal — UW’s third in three games — in the third as the Badgers handed the two-time defending NCAA champions their largest loss in more than 23 months.
“He does everything,” Caufield said of his roommate. “There’s not a thing in this game that he doesn’t do well. He’s so well-rounded.”
Not to be outdone, Caufield became the first UW player in 38 years to score in each of the first three games of the season and has three two-goal games to start his collegiate career.
John Newberry is the only other Badgers skater to score in the first three games; he had eight goals through that stretch in 1981-82.
Is anything that Caufield, the Montreal Canadiens’ first-round draft pick this year, is doing early in his Badgers tenure surprising coach Tony Granato?
“No,” he said. “He beat Auston Matthews, Phil Kessel and Patrick Kane in goal scoring (at the NTDP). To do that, you have to be a player that has the ability, no matter who you’re playing against, no matter what level you’re playing, when you get opportunities, he’s going to be able to score.”
A three-goal third period, with goals by Tarek Baker, Lindmark and Caufield, gave the Badgers (2-1) a cushion. The Bulldogs allowed their highest goal total since last October and suffered their largest loss since November 2017.
Duluth lost two defensemen to first-period ejections — second-team All-American Scott Perunovich for grabbing the face mask and Hunter Lellig for hitting from behind.
“We got short a couple of guys and didn’t play the game the right way,” Bulldogs coach Scott Sandelin said. “They took advantage of that. That’s what good teams do.”
With 24 NHL scouts in attendance, the Badgers made a positive impression on an announced crowd of 10,410 with a fairly complete game.
The second period was a sloppy 20 minutes, but UW took a 3-2 lead six minutes in after a nice set of give-and-go passes between Lindmark and Ty-Pelton Byce. Lindmark finished off a drive to the net by directing the puck past Duluth goaltender Hunter Shepard (31 saves).
Lindmark was on the ice for both Minnesota Duluth power-play goals in the first period, but he scored his second short-handed goal of the season to make it 5-2 in the third period.
“Going into the year, that was a big goal for us, not just kill penalties but to score off of them, too,” Lindmark said. “It just takes a smart play by one of the forwards or the defensemen, and sometimes it’s a little luck with a bounce of the puck or just a really good play.”
Linus Weissbach scored a 5-on-3 power-play goal to tie the game 2-2 late in the first period after he set up Caufield’s first score 53 seconds into the game.
Daniel Lebedeff made 26 saves for UW, keeping the Duluth offense quiet other than on first-period power-play goals by Jackson Cates and Nick Swaney.
A defensive zone that was unsettled in allowing 10 goals in two games last weekend was markedly calmer Friday.
“I think it was really easy to play today,” Lebedeff said. “I think the whole team defended really well. ... If we keep playing like this, it’s going to be a really good year for us.”
That was important to Granato, who knows his team can score with a deep crew of forwards but needs to see more full-ice commitment.
“What we need to grow into is a team that can do what we did tonight, and that’s shut down teams when games are on the line,” Granato said.
Minnesota Duluth 2 0 0 — 2
Wisconsin 2 1 3 — 6
First period: W — C. Caufield 5 (Weissbach, Turcotte), :53. MD — J. Cates 1 (Swaney, Samberg), 2:55 (pp); Swaney 1 (Samberg, Roth), 13:48 (pp). W — Weissbach 1 (Turcotte, Kalynuk), 17:19 (pp). Penalties: S. Dhooghe, W, 2:32; Holloway, W, 2:32; Perunovich, MD (major, game misconduct), 2:32; Baker, W, 13:30; Lellig, MD (major, game misconduct), 16:03; Roehl, MD, 16:23.
Second period: W — Lindmark 2 (Pelton-Byce, Peltonen), 5:56. Penalties: Miller, MD, 19:55.
Third period: W — Baker 1 (Holloway, S. Dhooghe), 4:19; Lindmark 3 (Ahcan), 10:14 (sh); C. Caufield 6 (Weissbach, Turcotte), 12:00. Penalties: S. Dhooghe, W, 6:43; Baker, W, 8:29.
Saves: MD (Shepard 12-9-10) 31; W (Lebedeff 10-9-7) 26. Power plays: MD 2-for-4; W 1-for-4. Att. — 10,410.