National and international awards behind her, Gopher Taylor Heise's competitive fire still burns
As her final season of college hockey begins, Taylor Heise has won two of the biggest awards in women's sports in the past six months, but there remains one prize she is focused on winning with the Gophers. Also, Bob Motzko looks to clean up a few things on the men's side, and Matthew Knies gets a taste of the spotlight.
MINNEAPOLIS – In some ways it was a dream season for Minnesota Gophers star forward Taylor Heise in 2021-22. Her fourth campaign at the U of M included winning a WCHA title, helping her team to the top ranking in the nation, and skating away with the Patty Kazmaier Award, given annually to the nation’s top player.
Not bad, considering that Heise admits she would have rather been somewhere else. One of the last cuts from Team USA last fall, Heise played college hockey with an admitted chip on her shoulder while two of her Gophers teammates – Grace Zumwinkle and Abbey Murphy – flew to China to skate in the Olympics and came home with silver medals.
She’s just got fire in her belly … She’s not happy about the way things have happened.
Over the summer, Heise was named to Team USA for the 2022 IIHF Women’s World Championships and made her point on the ice, leading the Americans and being named the world’s most valuable player in the tournament while grabbing a silver medal of her own.
Still, there is a notable blank space on Heise’s resume that the Lake City, Minnesota, product is looking to fill as what will be her final season of college hockey begins.
“She’s just got fire in her belly … She’s not happy about the way things have happened. She’s been here four years and hasn’t won a national championship, and that’s her ultimate goal with our team,” Gophers coach Brad Frost said. “She;s continually motivated and trying to get better each and every day.”
Ask any Gopher and they will tell you there’s a hollow feeling about last season. After winning the conference’s regular season crown, they took a lead into the third period versus Ohio State in the WCHA Final Faceoff title game, only to fall to the Buckeyes in overtime. A week later, they were one-and-done in the NCAA tournament, falling to in-state rival Minnesota Duluth.
In April, Heise had surgery to repair a bilateral sports hernia and took a month to rest and recover before spending the summer getting up at 6 a.m. every other morning to work out and skate, then playing for Team USA on the world stage. She admitted that falling short of a NCAA title in her first four seasons of college hockey, and missing out on the Olympics last season, have left a sour taste, national and international honors notwithstanding.
“I’ve been angry for, like, the past four years,” she said, with a smile. “Last year, being up and then losing was not what we wanted to do, but we’re going to take it and we’re going to learn from it.”
The Gophers open at home with a two-game series versus Bemidji State on Friday and Saturday at Ridder Arena.