Taylor Trussler hasn’t exactly had the typical hockey trajectory. Then again, Trussler isn’t your typical player.
For seven years – Novice through first-year Bantam – the forward played boys’ rep C for the Ayr Flames.
Last season, her first in girls’ hockey, she captained the Ayr Rockets, a Bantam BB team.
This year, her first playing home games away from her hometown, she led the Brantford Ice Cats team in goals and helped the Midget AA team advance to its
first Esso Cup.
Trussler scored 73 goals in 55 games for the Rockets in 2014-15. “It was fun,” she says, “but I guess it really wasn’t that challenging.”
As much as she may not have been pushed, she played hard every shift, and at the 2015 Ontario Women’s Hockey Association provincial championship, her skill
and work ethic were noticed by scouts from a spring hockey organization in Brantford.
They suggested to Trussler’s mom, Megan Carruthers, that her daughter seek out stronger competition.
Add to that the fact many of her high school teammates played with Midget AA teams in the Lower Lakes Female Hockey League (LLFHL) and often shared their
own experiences and stories of others who’d gone on to even higher-level hockey.
Carruthers reached out to several teams about bringing Trussler to spring tryouts. One of those calls was to Garth Rickwood, head coach of the Ice Cats.
Rickwood was honest. He’d never taken a BB player and put her on an AA team.
“[Carruthers] said she just wanted to see if [Trussler] could play at a higher level,” says Rickwood. “Her mother had no idea if she could or couldn’t.
That’s the beauty of the unknown, the tryout. You just never know what to expect.”
Trussler joined 40 other players at the Ice Cats camp.
“You could tell within five minutes she was a natural,” says Rickwood. “She looked like a kid who was out on an outdoor rink, just flying around, happy and
smiles. Just somebody you could tell loved what she was doing. That’s what I look for.”
Less than 30 minutes later Rickwood offered her a spot on the team. At the suggestion of the Brantford coaching staff, Trussler enrolled in spring hockey.
The decision helped accelerate her learning curve – “The speed was a lot of faster in AA,” says Trussler; “I had to get used to passing more than I did in
BB” – and in the fall Rickwood rebuilt parts of her game. It took a couple of months for Trussler to feel comfortable at the new level, but no time to
start scoring like she did in BB.
In an exhibition game against the Oakville Hornets, perennial contenders in the LLFHL, she scored two shorthanded goals.
“The type of goals is what really sets her aside from a lot of players,” says Rickwood. “There are a lot of junior coaches in the area for the Provincial
Women’s Hockey League (PWHL) and they’re like, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen Taylor score a goal that wasn’t a highlight-reel goal.’ She’s just got that
patience when she’s around the net.”
Trussler scored 43 times in 70 games for the Ice Cats, her 70 points good for fourth on the team. She was one of the last forwards signed to the team last
April but a big reason why Brantford plays on this spring.
“She’s pushed the other players because they see what she does with the puck,” says Rickwood. “It’s lead by the example. She’s somebody that you never
worry about – she’s always going out and giving everything.”
This year, that’s applied to her off-ice priorities as well.
Trussler was always a good student, but this year she’s sunk herself into her schoolwork with renewed focus.
“She said ‘If I’m going to get a scholarship or someone wants to look at me, I have to have the marks to back it up,’” says Carruthers. “That to me is
The past two years have been a learning experience for both mother and daughter. Scouts at games and universities wanting to talk to players were new
territory. That was worth the risk of stepping away from the familiar, and the financial commitment that came with it, to see what else was out there.
“I wanted her to have the opportunity to see if she could take her talent further,” says Carruthers. “If she can, she can; if she can’t, she can’t. But I
wanted her to have the opportunity to see if she could.”
Next year Trussler will play for the Cambridge Rivulettes in the PWHL, a step up from Midget AA.
For now there’s one more tournament to play with the Ice Cats, in a season that’s changed her future in more ways than one.
“This year has made me like hockey a lot more – good coaching, good team and good people to be around,” says Trussler.
Neither mother nor daughter envisioned what one phone call could set in motion. All that’s left to do is to try and cap it off with a national championship
at the Esso Cup.
Says Carruthers, “This is the first time she’s ever said to me, ‘I think I’m going to have tears when the season is over.’”