One of the most important jobs Taylor Wente has entering her second IIHF Women’s Under-18 World Championship is to help bring the younger players along.
Wente distinctly remembers her first time as a member of the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 team.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking, just putting on that jersey for the first time,” Wente said. “You’re in worlds and you’re going for a gold medal. It’s really nerve-wracking.”
But Wente eventually settled into a groove, gaining confidence in her game and playing up to her standards. She credits the leadership on last year’s team for making her feel comfortable.
“When I was coming in last year as a younger player, the people on the team definitely helped me out and gave me confidence,” Wente said. “I feel like us, as returners, have to do the same thing for the younger players and just make them gain confidence. I feel like that will be the best thing for us because that was probably the hardest thing for me when I was there.”
It worked last year as the U.S. captured the gold medal. The Americans, in the gold medal game the previous nine years, won the event for the second straight year — and the fifth time in nine years — following a 3-2 overtime victory against Canada.
“The best part was definitely winning gold,” Wente said. “I think everyone’s going to say that. It’s definitely the highlight.”
But Wente also pointed to the team chemistry. She has known a number of her teammates for the last decade and felt the friendship and chemistry were strong en route to the championship. Wente also enjoyed a strong tournament with six assists in five games. She’s looking forward to another strong showing next month in Zlin, Czech Republic.
“I’m super excited and honored that I get the opportunity to represent my country and wear the red, white and blue jersey again,” Wente said. “It’s always a great feeling.”
The USA Hockey experience has played a vital role in Wente’s growth and development as a player. In addition to winning gold with the U.S. Women’s National Under-18 Team, Wente was also a member of two U.S. Women’s Under-18 Select Teams at the Under-18 Series against Canada. She also attended two USA Hockey Women’s National Festivals and participated in three player development camps.
“Those camps, I love them so much because they’re so much fun and you learn so much,” Wente said. “All the coaches are so smart and they know so much about hockey. You definitely learn a lot and it makes you a better hockey player.”
Wente took that experience back to her high school in Maple Grove, Minnesota, which enjoyed its best girls’ hockey season in program history. Wente scored 29 goals and 57 points, as she led Maple Grove to its first appearance in the state tournament. Her team reached the Class 2A state championship game where they fell, 3-2, against Eden Prairie in overtime.
“I’m so proud of my team and how far we got,” Wente said. “It’s disappointing to lose in the state championship, but we have some unfinished business this year. We definitely have a target on our back, but we have to keep going and hopefully we can get there again.”
Wente’s future is also decided after the Plymouth, Minnesota native committed to the University of Minnesota, located about a half hour from her home. She fell in love with the school on her first visit.
“I’ve always wanted to be a Gopher,” Wente said. “I grew up in Minnesota watching Gopher games, I went on an unofficial visit and I loved the campus, I loved the coaches, I loved the players. When they gave me an offer, I took it right away.”
Wente admitted the process was stressful, as she wanted to make sure she made the right choice for her future. As it turns out, Wente will fulfill a life-long dream when she goes to Minnesota.
“When I got the offer, it just felt right ” Wente said. “I was like, ‘All right, I’m going to go here because I always wanted to go here.’ And now I’m really excited for next year.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.