by Jashvina Shah
When Cole Caufield was two years old, he cried because he couldn’t play hockey with his older brother, Brock. Brock himself had started skating at two, placed in skates by his father Paul, then an assistant coach at UW Stevens Point. From then on the boys grew up watching their father’s games and skating side by side through youth hockey and even into high school.
“Growing up, I loved playing with Cole and it was always a dream of mine to play college hockey with him,” Brock said.
In November 2014 the pair accomplished that dream when both brothers committed to Ohio State. But in the fall of 2017, Cole reopened his commitment. Within the next week, Brock needed to make his decision too.
He followed his brother.
“It just wasn’t the right fit for us anymore. We wanted to both be all in to the school and I think that we weren’t both all in,” Cole said. “So we decided to open our options back up and just make the right decision for both of us.”
Brock was just 15 when he committed to Ohio State, while Cole was 13.
“My perspective on it is, if they’re going to offer you a scholarship when you’re young, that they can just as easily back out too, so I don’t feel like I did anything very wrong,” Brock said. “But I feel like there’s a lot of pressure on kids nowadays, because I mean today I just looked on Twitter and saw an ’03 committed and it’s crazy how young it’s getting. If I were to do it again, I probably wouldn’t have committed right away. Everyone wants to have that and use that and say, oh I’m committed here and stuff, but it’s really not that important in the long run. It’s just crazy how young it’s getting.”
Like most players, Brock was caught up in the dream schools were selling him. As he grew older and closer to attending college, he started sitting down and charting which players were leaving, which players were expected to return, and where he would fit in.
“It’s a lot easier to see yourself like where you’re going to fit in the lineup and stuff like that. I was a sophomore in high school, and you can’t really picture it when you’re that young,” Brock said. “Now when I’m able to compare, this school’s [losing] this many kids, these many kids are seniors, this guy’s going to the NHL, it just shows you what room they have and how you’re going to fit in.”
After Cole and Brock reopened their commitment, they embarked on the recruiting process again, but individually. While each brother found their own reasons, the pair ultimately kept their dream alive by committing to the hometown Wisconsin, where they will matriculate in 2019.
“When I first committed and looked at Wisconsin, I was really young. Not to say I wasn’t mature enough to make a decision, but looking at Wisconsin, I was star-struck. It looked so big and confusing. I mean it’s a big city and a big campus,” Brock said. “I just looked at it and I was just lost and I said, how can I, this is crazy. And it kind of turned me away to going there because how can I see myself living here, it’s the big city and I might get lost and all that stuff. But as I matured, it made it a lot easier and I was comfortable when I went on my visits and I got to see everything and how it lays out and talk to the players. They made it seem like it’s not as big as I thought it was and it’s just easier to get around and that’s what I was afraid of at first.”
The boys grew up playing youth hockey near Stevens Point, the school where their father coached and had also played. Neither child played Tier 1 hockey, but both played for Team Wisconsin and then Stevens Point Area High for a season before Brock departed for the USHL. And the Caufield siblings also both skated in the USHL as younger players. They are in that league now, with Brock dressing for the Green Bay Gamblers and Cole skating for the U.S. NTDP U17 team.
“It was different but I think it was good for both of us, just playing with new kids and experiencing what that’s like,” Cole said. “I think it just made us better.”
The Gamblers drafted Brock in the first round of the 2015 draft. He didn’t make the team that year, returning to Stevens Point Area high, where he played with his brother for a season. He made the team the following year and skated in the USHL as a 17-year-old. In his second season with the team, Brock has 19 points through 36 games.
“Playing in the USHL as a younger kid in high school, it’s tough going to school and then showing up for practice and competing against the best kids in the country that are older than you,” Brock said. “It’s tough but it made me better for this year and I learned a lot last year doing it.”
While Brock considers his vision and playmaking abilities his best assets, his shot and strength have improved over the past season thanks to his off-ice weightlifting.
“It’s a hard league to play in. It’s a grind, it’s 60 games and it’s every team you play against is a great team with great players,” Brock said. “I didn’t have that growing up and now every game matters and every game’s against a good team. It’s hard but it makes you better.”
Cole’s introduction to the USHL came as a 16-year-old with the NTDP this fall. Through 26 games he has 40 goals and 13 assists against older competition. A prospect with high hockey IQ, Cole also put up 13 points in six games en route to a U-17 World Challenge title.
“I just see things before they happen and make people around me better,” Cole said.
While Cole has fared well playing against opponents up to four years older, improving speed and strength is still a priority.
“You could always improve on that, playing against bigger guys you just have to adapt to the speed of the game.”
Both Cole and Brock will have time to work on both next season while they prepare for college. And then in 2019-20 they brothers will finally skate together again for the first time since 2015-16.
“It’s been a while, but I think we just see each other, we find each other. He’s more of a passer and I’m more of a shooter so we kind of work like that together,” Cole said.
“He’s my best friend so it’s really nice to be able to go to the same college as him. It’s going to be really nice to play with him.”
Photo Credit: Hickling Images