See more of the story

Maybe it's a Minnesota Nice thing. When faced with the choice to pass the puck or shoot it, Taylor Heise usually opted for the pass, giving a teammate the chance to score.

Her dad, Tony, appreciated his daughter's generosity. He just wished she would put it on ice during her rookie season with PWHL Minnesota.

"He says to me all the time, 'When you're on a roll, the only person who can stop it is you,'" Heise said. "And he said that me stopping it is making a pass first. I think I've gotten better with the confidence of knowing that (teammates) want me to shoot. They want me to score."

The former Gophers forward from Lake City is doing both, helping to carry Minnesota to the doorstep of a PWHL title. Heise has scored five goals in the playoffs, including three in the Walter Cup finals. Minnesota leads Boston 2-1 in the best-of-five series, and it can capture the league's first championship with a Game 4 victory Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.

Heise's season hasn't always been smooth. The No. 1 pick in the first PWHL draft, she started with three goals in the first three games, then went through a cold spell. A shoulder injury knocked her out of action for a month, and she endured another goal drought late in the season as Minnesota narrowly clung to a playoff berth.

During the playoffs, Heise has shot more, set up masterfully by linemates Kendall Coyne Schofield and Michela Cava. Her five postseason goals are one more than she netted in 19 regular-season contests.

She's on a roll at the right time, and her teammates hope it doesn't stop until they hoist a cup.

"A lot of credit goes to her for being coachable and wanting to learn from each game," Coyne Schofield said. "She wants to get better. She wants the puck on her stick. She wants to be in those clutch situations. That's the reason she was the first overall pick."

Last spring, Heise ended five seasons with the Gophers at No. 6 on the program's career points list. She had 97 goals and 227 points and was known as both a scorer and a playmaker, with great vision and hockey instincts.

Natalie Darwitz, PWHL Minnesota's general manager, said it was "a no-brainer" to make Heise the No. 1 draft pick. "I think she potentially could be the best player in the world," Darwitz said before the season. "And I don't think we've seen her best hockey yet."

The GM predicted Heise would thrive in the spotlight, which is proving true in the playoffs. At a time of year when goals are typically hard to come by — and often scored in gritty tangles in front of the net — Heise has beaten the PWHL's best goaltenders with timing, touch and accuracy.

Minnesota coach Ken Klee hasn't urged Heise to shoot more. He's simply given her the green light to take opportunities that are there, and her dynamic line is creating them.

"She's got a great skill set," Klee said. "She can take a slapper. She can snap it wherever she wants, top shelf, either side. She's clicking on all cylinders, and she's having a lot of fun doing it."

Klee did lots of teaching early in the season, using video to show Heise how to adapt to the pro game. She's learned to read plays well at higher speeds and make quicker decisions. Heise also has become comfortable with playing through the PWHL's heavy contact, while dishing it out herself.

She's still a playmaker, too. In Friday's 4-1 victory in Game 3, Heise's spot-on pass to Cava set up Minnesota's crucial third goal. With her back to the net in Game 1, she found Cava with another precision delivery for a wraparound score.

Sunday, Heise is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep Minnesota rolling toward a championship.

"We're ready to have fun," she said. "We're excited for the opportunity to play in a really, really, really big game."