Abby Roque was sensational last weekend in the first stop of the PWHPA’s 2021 Secret Dream Gap Tour.
On Saturday, in her professional debut, Roque was a dominant force for Minnesota’s Team adidas. Roque scored two goals and picked up two primary assists — all at even strength — to lift her team to a 5-2 statement win over Team Women’s Sports Foundation. It’s important to note that she picked up all of her points on four consecutive goals, three of which were scored in the third period. She had the PWHPAers from New Hampshire playing on their heels.
She followed that impressive debut with a two-point game on Sunday, playing under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. Roque scored her third goal of the Dream Gap Tour in the first period and picked up a secondary assist on Kendall Coyne Schofield’s third period goal that cut New Hampshire’s lead in half. Again, both of Roque’s points were picked up at evens which demonstrates just how exceptional she was over the weekend.
Note: the PWHPA’s stats have Roque with seven points through two games, but after reviewing all scoring events I have her with six.
Roque joined the PWHPA after a stellar collegiate career at the University of Wisconsin. She won a national title as a junior in 2018-19 and had at least 40 points in her final three seasons with the Badgers. Her NCAA career culminated in an outstanding senior season in 2019-20. That year, she finished seventh in the nation in scoring with 58 points in 36 games — 46 of which were primary — and was named a Top-3 Finalist for the Patty Kazmaier in her senior season.
“I had been known as being more of a solid playmaker and a strong defensive center needed against other top lines across the NCAA,” Roque said after winning the 2020 Bob Allen Women’s Hockey Player of the Year in June. “I worked on my scoring touch, and I started scoring more as the year went on. When that happened, I think it all started to click because my all-around game was still there and I started scoring more.”
A cursory look at Roque’s NCAA boxcar stats supports her claim that she added another dimension to her game in her senior season. It’s also worth noting that she demonstrated greater discipline away from the puck in her junior and senior seasons. Overall, she became a more complete and impactful player with each passing year.
Roque also stood out in her senior national team debut in the Rivalry Series last season. She had goals in two games against Team Canada, which is why a few icons on the U.S. women’s national team weren’t at all surprised to see her make an impact in her first few games as a pro.
“I think she’s going to be the best player in the world, plain and simple,” Hilary Knight said of Roque after Sunday night’s game. “It’s incredible to see her develop on a daily basis. Watch out for her. The sky is the limit. When she gets to put it all together and gets some time under her belt it’s going to be lights out.”
“I think she’s going to be the best player in the world, plain and simple.” - Hilary Knight
Knight wasn’t the only staple of the national team who was singing the praises of Roque for her play this weekend.
“It’s fun watching her play out there, I have a lot of respect for her,” Brianna Decker said after Roque and Team adidas beat Team Women’s Sports Foundation on Saturday. “It’s not even that she put a couple of goals in tonight, I just like the style that she plays. She plays aggressive, she plays physical. I’m glad that she’s an American playing on our team.”
Roque’s skillset sets her apart from other players her age. She drives the play and is outstanding away from the puck and displays her high hockey IQ in all three zones. Something that really stood out about her over the weekend was how well she uses her 5-foot-7 frame to protect the puck.
Roque is exceptionally strong for her size and has tremendous balance, which helps her shield the puck along the boards while her teammates get open. It’s just one of the reasons why she’s such a great playmaker. It also doesn’t hurt that Roque has great vision and is a quick and creative thinker. She knows how to put her teammates in positions where they can get clear looks at the net. In other words, she has a gift for making the players around her play up to their potential.
Check out this shift by Abby Roque from tonight's game.— Mike Murphy (@DigDeepBSB) February 28, 2021
She has Gruschow all over her, she shields the puck and keeps looking for places to go with it. Dunne goes to support Gruschow, Roque knocks it away from her and to Houston, who puts it on net and Roque buries the rebound. pic.twitter.com/pVZ5bOgkPt
The Wisconsin alumna credited her deployment on Saturday as the reason she was able to pick up four primary points at even strength, insisting that she was able to score because she wasn’t going up against New Hampshire’s top line. That certainly helped, but the bottom line is that Roque was making plays regardless of who she was on the ice with on Saturday and Sunday.
Roque’s career-high 26 goal senior season at Wisconsin was no fluke. It was the sign of an elite player adding another tool to her belt and demonstrating more confidence in her ability to score. The work she has put in to add another element to her game speaks for itself. The release of her wrist shot is downright nasty.
Roque’s continued development is something that Hockey Canada should be sweating about. After all, she’s a dual-citizen but chose to play for Team USA. More importantly, it is another glaring example of why post-collegiate and professional women’s hockey is so important.
Rising stars like Roque need ice time and real competition to hone their skills and continue to develop. Hopefully, the PWHPA will get to feature the talents of Roque in additional stops of the Secret Dream Gap Tour after Chicago. Because after last weekend’s games, there are a lot of people who want to see more women’s hockey because of the show that Roque and others put on.
PWHPA stats tracked by the author, NCAA data courtesy of HockeyEastOnline.com.