When choosing our Player of the Year, we try to look beyond the simple numbers for a player that’s multi-dimensional. We want a valuable player; an impactful player; a player opponents hate to face.
With a group of very good candidates this year that felt similar, we looked for a player that distinguished herself from the pack. For us, the choice came down to a player that dominated when she was on the ice in every aspect of the game. She’s a 200-foot player who can snipe, grind and be impactful on defense. She isn’t her team’s leading scorer, but there’s no doubt when watching their games that she’s the most important person they have on the ice.
For those reasons and more, Wisconsin senior Abby Roque is our 2020 USCHO Player of the Year.
With a talented lineup of players that’s four lines deep, Wisconsin can find points from every player on the roster. Roque is their best player because her game goes beyond goals and assists. While others on her team and across the country amassed higher point totals, what makes Roque stand out is that she plays a well-rounded, adaptable and physical game that makes people take notice. Dangerous with a strong shot from distance, she’s just as potent in close, with a deceptive dangle or spin move to shake a defender and beat a goalie. She’s a physical presence who can use her body to protect the puck, shield the goalie and give herself the space she needs to get a pass or shot off.
A strong two-way player, Roque led all Wisconsin forwards with 31 blocks and had a +37 rating. Solid and strong on her skates, she’s the player you’d most want along the boards fighting for position and the puck for your team. Paired with Daryl Watts and Sophie Shirley for what fans were calling a “super line” in the first half of the season, Roque showed adaptability when she was shifted to play with a grittier line of Britta Curl and Alexis Mauermann.
The most underappreciated, but important part of Roque’s game is her success in the faceoff circle. She won 523 faceoffs, more than anyone else in the country, and carries a career 65.6% faceoff percentage that is second-best in the nation. Beyond recognizing those stellar numbers, Roque’s prowess at the faceoff dot this season helped shore up a sometimes shaky defense that could escape tough spots by freezing or icing the puck and winning the ensuing faceoff. The Badger offense that’s based on quick passes and puck movement starts with possessing the puck and Roque ensures that more often than not, her team is skating away with control. The team and coaches could strategize, especially late in games, knowing they had this weapon in their pocket.
Roque more than doubled her goals from last season while also maintaining her role as a set-up player. Often selfless in dishing the puck, this season she added the confidence of knowing she could single-handedly make a difference for her team. She led the Badgers with nine power play goals and five game-winning goals, as well as scoring the first goal of the game seven times.