EDMONTON – Perseverance, character and a team-first attitude are traits that add up to the legacy that MacEwan women's hockey graduating senior Beth Taylor is leaving to the program.
The New Norway, Alta. native has embraced a tough role with the team over five seasons, in and out of the lineup as an energy forward.
So, it's no surprise her career highlight was when she got to play her first Canada West game on Oct. 16 vs. Regina – a 2-1 triumph for the Griffins for the program's historic first U SPORTS win.
"Winning our ACAC Championships was obviously a highlight, but I think my happiest memory was getting to play in my first (U SPORTS) game this year," she said. "It was a long road with COVID (cancelling the 2020-21 season) and then trying to get approved to come to this league.
"It's always been a dream of mine to play at this level, so I think career-wise, this has been a highlight for me."
Taylor will be one of four Griffins' graduating seniors feted before Friday's final regular season home game against Alberta (7 p.m., Downtown Community Arena, Canada West TV presented by Co-op), joining Chantal Ricker, Kyrelle Skoye and Natalie Bender. MacEwan will visit Alberta on Saturday (7 p.m., Clare Drake) to complete the weekend home-and-home series.
"This is the group that was critical in creating our championship run," said MacEwan head coach Lindsay McAlpine of the core that led the Griffins to three-straight ACAC Championships and a win away from a fourth before COVID shut down the 2020 final with them up 2-0 on NAIT. "All they've ever known or done is winning. It's been a year where they were challenged differently, playing in a different conference, with obviously the goal of winning a Canada West championship being quite different than in previous years.
"They have done that so well and taken it on with a passion and intensity that's no different than what they brought in the ACAC. I look forward to seeing traits they've passed along to younger players being a huge part of our program."
Taylor will also have plenty to pass on, even if she didn't see the same minutes of her fellow graduating seniors.
"I think I played a hard role throughout my five years," she said. "I don't get the last two minutes of ice time or the powerplay, but I think, especially for younger players coming through the program, it's OK to not be in that role.
"You can still have a great career and it's still very rewarding even though you're not playing in the championship games or you're not scoring the winning goal."
Beth Taylor lines up for a faceoff against Olds during the 2019-20 ACAC season (Joel Kingston photo).
For McAlpine, that's speaks directly about Taylor's character.
"She plays that role really well," she said. "It's one of the hardest roles to play at this level of hockey and Beth is someone who does it with a smile on her face and with the grace of walking into the room and supporting her teammates regardless of the role she's playing.
"I think that's been a tough lesson over the course of five years in the arc of her career, but it's something I'm so proud as a coach that Beth is able to embrace that role the way that she has."
Taylor noted it wasn't easy being a healthy scratch for MacEwan's 2018 and 2019 ACAC Championship final wins.
"I think the first year, for sure, it was hard to watch our team win that game without me, but I think after the season ended, I put it in perspective that all year I practiced and pushed the girls and I was a part of games that got us to that point," she said. "I think that's what I had to remember and I kept that mindset ever since.
"That's why I've been able to be successful after that first year. It's not easy not playing in those games, but it's kind of made me mentally tougher. That mentality will help me in the future, too."
With that as her mindset, Taylor was able to epitomize the Griffins' identity, bringing hard work to the fore every night she's in the lineup.
"I would describe myself as hard to play against," said Taylor, who grew up in the Camrose Minor Hockey system and eventually played AAA with the Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs before coming to MacEwan. "I work really hard. I don't really give the other team time and space with the puck and I really enjoy the defensive side of the game – penalty killing and getting it out of the D zone in order to make space for other players. I like to play with girls who have confidence with the puck. I like to get them the puck and create space for them."
McAlpine said it's her consistency that's earned her playing time in MacEwan's inaugural Canada West season.
"I know what I'm going to get when I put Beth in the lineup," said McAlpine. "She's someone who's relentless on the puck, she knows our systems well and I'd say the most important thing in these past few weekends is she brings a bench energy for our group that we've been lacking."
Those traits she's honed throughout her hockey career of hard work and team building will no doubt serve her well as she aims for a career as a lawyer. Taylor will graduate from MacEwan this spring with a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in legal studies and business and has applied to several law schools across Canada.
"Our assistant coach, Danielle Bourgeois is an inspiration to me because she's a lawyer," said Taylor. "I've always looked up to her and she's been a huge help throughout the process of me trying to get in."