Abby Roque’s journey to the University of Wisconsin women’s hockey team was anything but typical. For starters, she hails from the state of Michigan, while the majority of her team is either a Wisconsin, Minnesota or Canada native.

On top of this, Roque also ascended through high school hockey while playing on her local boy’s team. Despite these differences, Roque cemented herself as a leading producer for the Badgers by her senior season. 

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From an early age, Roque had a feeling that Wisconsin may be the place for her when she was exposed to the city and its impressive hockey program. Her father was a Division 1 coach himself, and on a few occasions played in competitions hosted by the Badgers. 

“I came [to Madison] and I just thought it was amazing. I remember coming in and thinking ‘this place, this city, the facilities are amazing,’” Roque said. “When I was finally getting recruited I came back and nothing had really changed.” 

Ultimately, it was the success of the program that drove Roque’s decision to bring her talents to Madison. Even with her impressive high school career, Roque was not positive that she would receive much playing time at the start. After all, Wisconsin had consistently been a familiar face both atop national rankings and at the NCAA tournament. 

Yet, Roque managed to get extremely solid playing time as a contributor to the Badgers’ third line. She even played in all 40 games for the Badgers en route to being named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association rookie of the year, a highly prestigious honor given the relative dominance of the WCHA. Roque arrived in Madison with a bang, but that does not mean she didn’t face challenges, especially with the transition from men’s to women’s hockey. 

“It’s a little different with checking in guy’s hockey [compared to] girl’s hockey. I got a lot of penalties freshman year for body checking and things like that,” Roque said.

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On top of any rule changes that Roque had to consider when making her transition to Division 1 women’s hockey, she also had to get acclimated to her new role for the Badgers. Part of this endeavor included finding new confidence in her ability to shoot the puck relative to what she was used to in high school. 

Her coaches set out to redefine her role as a key shooter and goal scorer for the Badgers from the onset of her time in Madison. 

“That’s what my coaches kept harping on me for, was that I had more time and should shoot it more. Because, in guy’s hockey, my shot wasn’t elite … compared to some stronger guys. But, here it’s a lot harder compared to some of the girls so they really wanted me to shoot it more and control the puck more.” 

And control the puck more she did. Since her first season as a Badger, Roque has scored more goals season to season. This ultimately culminated in her 21 goal performance through 28 games in this season’s campaign. 

Roque’s growth as an offensive threat is centered around her increasing role as a shot taker for the Badgers. Perhaps more importantly than the sheer number of shots taken is the quality of those shots. Since her first season in which Roque fired off 122 shots and scored only eight goals, she has become only more accurate as her total shots have trended down while her total goals have trended up. 

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Up to this point in the season, Roque has scored 21 goals on 99 shots, good for a scoring percentage of 21.2%. This is an extremely successful rate given where she started in the 2016 to 2017 season with a scoring percentage of just 6.6%. Statistically, this is arguably the way in which Roque has improved the most. 

For Roque, one goal stands out in particular in the journey to becoming one of the top goal scorers for the Badgers. Even with her hat trick in the opening game of the most recent border battle, a goal from last year reigns supreme. Specifically, her opening goal in the semifinals of the NCAA tournament holds a special place in her memory. 

“Against Clarkson last year, in the semifinals of the NCAA’s, it was still 0–0 about 10 minutes into the second [period], and Britta Curl gave me a great pass through the middle. I remember I was like, ‘I’m shooting it right here, I’m not going to wait.’ It went through the five-hole and that was a great moment to get one on the board.” 

It’s hardly surprising that a goal that helped to propel the Badgers to their first national championship in years is the favorite for Roque. It was a great moment in the history of the program and served to add yet another trophy to the case. 

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Yet, even with how successful the team has been this year, it is certainly not smooth sailing to return to the top of the field for two years in a row. To Roque, the team’s ability to reload on talent and play their own game has been key to their repeated success. 

“We have a lot of great players here who haven’t played a whole lot before this year really step up into those [crucial] roles,” Roque said. “We’re not the exact same team we were last year. We’ve learned to adapt to the talent and personnel we have this year and play around that and I think that’s been our biggest strength.” 

Part of this process of filling roles certainly includes Roque and her greater scoring numbers this season. She has nearly twice her highest season goal total already, and there are still multiple regular season and postseason games left. 

Throughout the rest of the season, look for Roque to continue to build upon her already impressive offensive performance. If the Badgers are to reach the heights of collegiate hockey for the second year in a row, both Roque and other top offensive weapons for the Badgers, including Sophie Shirley and Daryl Watts, must continue to put up career-best numbers on offense.