Rookie Taylor Mulder's big month includes scoring first goal at Rogers Place
Highlights: Lacombe's Taylor Mulder, the former captain of the Lloydminster Bobcats, scored the first-ever goal at Rogers Place during an unofficial game; Mulder and his Griffins teammates will christen the new Downtown Community Arena on Saturday when they welcome UAlberta-Augustana (6 p.m.)
EDMONTON – When it comes to his hockey career, the past few months have been monumental for MacEwan Griffins men’s hockey forward Taylor Mulder.
In May, he captained the Lloydminster Bobcats to the final of the RBC Cup.
In September, he started school at MacEwan University on a Police and Investigations major.
Then the biggie: on Sept. 23, he scored the first-ever goal in Rogers Place.
That’s right. Hockey history won’t show that an NHL or WHL player pulled off the feat, but rather a kid from Lacombe.
The Griffins met Portage in a “secret game” at the Edmonton Oilers’ new arena that night in order to give facility staff a chance to test equipment and the scoreboard.
“We were talking about it before the game, wondering who the lucky guy would be (to score the first goal). We were making bets and stuff,” said Mulder of the contest, kept under wraps until the arena’s public unveiling earlier this month. “I never would have bet on myself to score that goal. It was pretty surreal, for sure.”
In later years when he tells the story to his grandkids, it’s quite possible the goal will be a Gretzky-like deke on a breakaway. But for now, Mulder is being realistic.
“My linemates were working down low in front of the net and I was the lucky guy out front,” he said. “Caught a pass and put it in the net. Nothing special. Kind of an ice burner. Closed my eyes and shot the puck.
“I was pretty excited. Just to get the first goal. To get the lead in the game. After I realized that ‘oh man, that was the first goal ever in Rogers Place.’ Everybody on the team was pretty amped up too. It was pretty cool.”
Another first will happen for Mulder on Saturday when he and the Griffins take to the ice of the adjacent Downtown Community Arena – their new home this season – for the premier contest in the facility. The Griffins welcome the UAlberta-Augustana Vikings for their home opener at 6 p.m.
“We’re beyond happy and blessed to have this facility,” the 6-foot-4, 239-pound power forward said.
“It’s nice to have our own room to keep all of our stuff. It’s a brand new facility and has 1,000 or so seats. Hopefully we can fill them all up on Saturday night. That would be awesome.”
Admission is free as the Griffins will be a part of a special first night of hockey in the greater facility; the Edmonton Oil Kings will christen Rogers Place with a game against Red Deer at 7 p.m. and it’s reportedly sold out.
For Mulder and his teammates, it’s surreal sharing space with the Oil Kings and the Oilers. Several Oilers, coming off a day of medicals on the eve of training camp, were spotted briefly watching the Griffins practice on Thursday.
“We haven’t experienced it as much yet, but I’m sure as the season goes on, we’re going to end up seeing some other NHL teams and the Oilers and Oil Kings, too,” said Mulder. “It’s pretty cool to have those guys at the next level in the same building. They’re watching us and it’s pretty neat.”
The Griffins actually open their season on Friday night in Camrose when they visit UAA before the rematch goes at the DCA Saturday.
“I think they’re probably the team to beat in our league this year, so it’s a good early test for us,” said head coach Bram Stephen of the Vikings, who lost to NAIT in the league championship last season.
“They’re big all throughout their lineup. They’re aggressive. They manage the puck quite well. They spread you out on the breakout and they usually have a pretty dangerous powerplay.”
Mulder will be getting his first taste of ACAC regular season action. He’s hoping the atmosphere, especially on Saturday night, reaches the level he experienced with the Bobcats in the RBC Cup final, when they lost 4-0 to West Kelowna in front of a full house of more than 1,800 fans.
“It was constantly people cheering, just a rowdy crowd,” he said. “It’s fun to play in a game like that. If you don’t already have motivation to play, they definitely help.”
Already a veteran of five preseason games, Mulder is gaining an appreciation of this next level of hockey in his career. He has his older brother Blair Mulder – who is a fourth-year defenceman with Red Deer College – to lean on for advice. It will be special when the two face off against each other on Oct. 28 when the Kings visit the DCA for the first time.
“I’ve played against him in one AJHL game,” said Taylor Mulder, who is five inches taller than his brother. “We didn’t meet up on the ice much, but I can only expect it will be quite the battle. He’s three years older than me, so I’m going to have to tune him in, for sure. He’ll do the same for me.”
But first things first. And that’s kicking off the season with the series against UAA.
“For us, we need to play a disciplined hockey game and come out on the better side of special teams, not taking penalties and when we do having success on the penalty kill,” said Stephen.
“We need to be consistent for 60 minutes. To counter their size we need to be smart getting pucks behind their defence core.”
For more information on the Griffins, contact Jefferson Hagen at 780-497-5324, or by email at HagenJ23@MacEwan.ca