Aug. 28—HERNING, Denmark — Taylor Heise is once again proving that she belongs among the best in the world.
To take it a step further, the Lake City native doesn't just belong, she is one of the best in the world.
Heise has fit right in on the U.S. women's hockey team at the 2022 IIHF Women's World Championships over the past week. She has shown no nerves, instead flashing the playmaking ability that earned her the nod as the best women's college hockey player in the country in the 2021-22 season, as well as Minnesota's Miss Hockey in 2018, when she completed a historical six-year career at Red Wing High School.
Centering the second line with Team USA veterans Amanda Kessel and Alex Carpenter on her wings — as well as taking the ice with such U.S. legends as Hilary Knight, Lee Stecklein, Kelly Pannek and Hannah Brandt — Heise has played her role to perfection as the U.S. has rolled to wins in its first two pool-play games, outscoring Japan (10-0) and Finland (6-1) by a combined total of 16-1.
"You get her into practice and she passes the eye test in regards to her skills," U.S. coach John Wroblewski said of Heise, following the tournament-opening victory against Japan. "She has a strong frame and she has a glide to her that's very impressive, it's almost effortless the way she can get up and down the sheet.
"She has a lot of power to her game, but then she's got the hands to complement and round out her game and be just very dangerous."
The U.S. has two challenging pool-play games remaining before bracket play begins Thursday. The Americans are scheduled to meet Switzertland at 7 p.m. local time (noon CDT) on Monday, Aug. 29. They'll wrap up pool play against arch-rival Canada at 1 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, Aug. 30. The tournament quarterfinals are set for Thursday, Sept. 1, with the semifinals scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 3, and the medal games set for Sunday, Sept. 4.
The NHL Network is broadcasting all games at the championships.
As for Heise, she couldn't have hoped for a better start to her first-ever appearance with the top U.S. national team.
The current University of Minnesota star was named the Patty Kazmaier Award winner for the 2021-22 season, after leading the country in points (66) and finishing second in goals scored (29). She led the Gophers in both of those categories, as well as assists (37), shots on goal (235), game-winning goals (6) and shorthanded goals (5).
Heise had five assists in the victory against Japan on Thursday and was named the Player of the Game. She followed that with one assist in a 6-1 win against Finland on Saturday.
"It was awesome. We play with such pace and such fire," Heise told USA Hockey after the win against Japan. "It's definitely a new atmosphere for me, but (the veterans) make me feel at home, which is awesome.
"That's why I was able to be comfortable and confident, especially with awesome linemates like 'Kes' and 'Carp' today."
Heise's assist against Finland came at a key moment in the game. She set up a goal by Kessel just 1 minute, 53 seconds after Finland's Ella Viitasuo had scored to cut the Americans' lead to 3-1 less than a minute into the third period. On Kessel's goal, Heise skated behind the net from the right corner and sneaked a behind-the-back pass to Kessel on the doorstep. Kessel buried it easily for her second goal of the game.
Heise nearly scored her first goal of the championships, too, when she rang a heavy shot off the crossbar on a power play early in the second period against Finland.
"Now, it's just about, for her, kind of honing in on the details to make her a complete 200-foot player at this level," Wroblewski said. "Those are things that can only come through experience and being here. Luckily we have her here and hopefully we can continue to build her game as the tournament progresses."
The 22-year-old Heise is the fifth-youngest player on the 23-player U.S. roster, one of just five team members born in the 2000s.
"We have some new, fresh faces this year, some really, really good young talent," Kessel said after the win against Japan. "Our style of play is changing and I think we're in a really good spot right now. I like where our team is going. We're trying to play fast-paced hockey and we have the players to do it."