Tayler Heise (right) brings an unmatched intensity to the ice, setting a tone for her teammates. “They all worked really hard but with Taylor, everything is amplified times two,” Red Wing coach Scott Haley said. “She never stops.” Photo by Richard Tsong-T
Given a day off last week, Red Wing senior forward Taylor Heise skated in an optional practice, then ran wind sprints at home.
The latest in a string of Division I committed players from Red Wing, the Minnesota-bound Heise stands out from predecessors Rose Alleva, Nicole Schammel and sisters Paige and Reagan Haley.
“They all worked really hard but with Taylor, everything is amplified times two,” Wingers coach Scott Haley said. “She never stops.”
The extra work fueled a fast start this season. Red Wing won its first five games, including a 5-3 victory against a St. Paul United team ranked No. 2 in the preseason Associated Press poll.
“That game was a huge turning point for us, a chance for us to prove to people who doubt us what we can do,” said Heise, who has scored 14 goals, including three hat tricks, as Red Wing moved up from No. 6 to No. 4 in the Class 1A rankings.
Red Wing reached the state tournament six times in seven seasons from 2009-15, and Heise made three of those trips from seventh grade through her freshman year. Section 1 playoff losses the past two seasons created an urgency to lead her team back to Xcel Energy Center.
“After we lost to Northfield last year, she said to the team, ‘I hope we take this feeling and use it to go hard in everything we do,’ ” junior defender Emily Hart said. “She sets the tone for the whole team. When she’s around, we’re always on our toes.”
As a Wingers co-captain, Heise (left) encourages her teammates to have fun and smile — both on and off the ice. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Not that Heise rules through force.
“I’m determined to win and have fun,” Heise said. “I say things like, ‘I need to see a smile from at least three people.’ And they’ll skate up to me during warmups smiling and say, ‘See? That’s one.’ ”
As Heise grew up, her athletic endeavors seemed destined for the basketball court. Her parents, Tony and Amy, played college basketball at Wisconsin-River Falls, and young Taylor started in sneakers rather than skates. That began to change in second grade, when Heise brought home a flier advertising youth hockey in Lake City. The ice became her preferred canvas.
“I was an active kid — always moving,” Heise said. “On the ice you can skate anywhere so you’re more free.”
At home, she would steal the television remote control and switch from basketball to hockey, much to her family’s chagrin.
The 5-10 Heise played both basketball and hockey until seventh grade. Choosing hockey, which was not offered at the high school level in Lake City, meant 25-minute drives to Red Wing and bucking her extended family’s basketball tradition. Among her 15 cousins are the basketball-playing Goodwins of Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa and the Hinsches of Goodhue. Heise’s younger brother, Nathan, is a sophomore guard for Lake City’s varsity.
“I miss not seeing as much of my Lake City friends but hockey was the best decision for me,” said Heise, who has twice helped the United States win gold medals at the IIHF Under-18 women’s world championship.
For all her abilities, Heise values her coaches feedback.
Haley challenged Heise in the season opener against Mahtomedi to trade unsuccessful blasts from the blue line for quality shots in close. Heise obliged, tallying all three of her goals from inside the faceoff dots.
“That’s a credit to how coachable she is,” Haley said. “She could be the biggest diva in the world but she’s not.”
Heise entered the week as one of the favorites to win Ms. Hockey. Find out who else could be a finalist for the award and view a list of this season's must-see games.
David La Vaque
Taylor Heise (9), in a game earlier this season. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine