Lake City's Taylor Heise returning to international stage with Team USA

Apr. 2—LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — Taylor Heise was a breakout star for the United States at the 2022 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championships.

In 2023, in her second go-around on one of women's hockey's biggest stages, the Lake City native helped the U.S. beat rival Canada to win a gold medal.

It's no surprise that Heise is back on the Team USA roster for the Women's World Championships for a third consecutive year. And for the first time, she'll get to play for the U.S. on its home ice. Heise and the U.S. team begin their quest for a second consecutive gold medal at 6 p.m. Wednesday against Switzerland, at Adirondack Bank Center in Utica, N.Y.

Heise has been oustanding in her first two opportunities to play in the World Championships.

Two years ago, in her first appearance with a U.S. senior National Team, the former Red Wing High School and University of Minnesota star forward had 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists) in seven games as the U.S. earned a silver medal at the 2022 Women's Worlds in Denmark.

As if she needed to announce her arrival as one of the best players in the world, Heise had a five-point game in her debut at the event, recording five assists in a pool-play win against Japan. She also recorded her first hat trick at the sport's highest level, when she scored three times in a 12-1 tournament quarterfinal win against Hungary.

A year ago, Heise and the U.S. invaded Canada, beating their biggest rival 6-3 in Brampton, Ontario, to win the gold medal. She tied for third in the tournament in scoring, with 12 points (one goal, 11 assists). None was bigger than her assist on the game-winning goal, scored by Hillary Knight, in the gold-medal game.

Getting another opportunity to play in the Women's Worlds means Heise can add another bullet point to her resume — and, odds are, another opportunity to play for gold — as she continues toward perhaps the biggest box she has yet to check on her list of goals: A spot on the U.S. team for the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.

Through her success at the University of Minnesota, where she won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the country's top player in 2022, through becoming the No. 1 overall pick in last fall's inaugural PWHL Draft (by her home-state team), Heise has never let go of her southern Minnesota roots.

"It's the people, you know?" she said on Dec. 19 at Prairie Island Arena in Red Wing. "Southern Minnesota hockey, it has this special place in my heart. It's a place where there are so many amazing people who not only care about you as a hockey player, they care about you as a person."

As for the current version of Team USA, it beat Czechia 6-1 in a pre-tournament game on Saturday in Lake Placid, and is scheduled to play four preliminary-round games. Following Wednesday's opener against Switzerland, the U.S. will face Czechia at 6 p.m. Friday, Finland at 6 p.m. Saturday and Canada at 6 p.m. Monday. All games will be broadcast on the NHL Network.

The quarterfinal round of the 2024 Women's World Championships is set for Thursday, April 11, with the semifinals on Saturday, April 13. The bronze-medal game is scheduled for noon on Sunday, April 14, with the gold-medal game to follow at 4 p.m.

John Wroblewski, a native of Neenah, Wis., will again serve as the head coach for the U.S. team. One of his assistants will be the newly named head coach of the Minnesota State University, Mankato, women's hockey team, Shari Dickerman. The U.S. roster includes four Minnesotans: Heise, Rory Guilday (Minnetonka), Kelly Pannek (Plymouth) and Grace Zumwinkle (Excelsior).

Heise is one of 18 returning players from last year's Team USA gold-medal winning team.