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Roque on Team USA: ‘We're ready to get back on top’


The 2021-22 season was not a banner year for the United States women’s national hockey team.

At the 2021 women’s worlds in Calgary, Team USA’s run of five straight gold medals came to an end after Canadian captain Marie-Philip Poulin sniped home the overtime winner.

In Beijing last February, the Americans were dethroned as the reigning Olympic champions as Canada skated away with the gold medal.

Forward Abby Roque is determined to flip the script as the worlds kick off from Denmark on Aug. 25.

“We're just ready to get back on top,” Roque told TSN. “I think we're all prepared. I think this summer a lot of us took it very seriously, our training, and we just wanted to come back better than ever. It doesn't sit well with us when we're not the best team in the world.”

The American roster will be missing some familiar faces this time around. Forward Brianna Decker (injury), goaltender Alex Cavallini (pregnancy) and defenceman Megan Bozek are not on the roster while Dani Cameranesi retired in July, opening the door for someone like Roque to take on an even bigger role.

At the 2021 worlds in Calgary, Roque played a small role, registering one assist in six games and averaged 8:28 minutes of ice time.

It was a different story at the Olympics in Beijing, where the 24-year-old had three points in seven games and averaged just over 18 minutes of ice time. She was the fourth-most used forward for the Americans behind only Hilary Knight, Kendall Coyne Schofield and Hannah Brandt.

Roque’s rise through the USA Hockey ranks is no surprise to her teammates with Knight infamously declaring, "I think she's going to be the best player in the world. Plain and simple."

“For me I just want to be the best player I can be, it's not about being the best player in the world,” said Roque in response to the praise. “I want to be better than everybody when I'm on that ice, who doesn't?

“You want to be competing, you want to win every puck battle, everything out there you want to be doing all you can for the team to win. I think that for me, if I can be the best player I can be, I'm very content with that because usually that means that I'm a pretty good player on the ice in general.”

Now playing for the Minnesota chapter of the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA) after four years at the University of Wisconsin where she won a national championship in 2019, the 2021-22 season was the first time Roque experienced Olympic centralization with Team USA.

“It's interesting, it's stressful,” said Roque. “You're competing against your teammates, while also you're a team and we all want each other to succeed. You see somebody get cut and that means that you're still there.

“It's hard. It's physically demanding. You're on the ice all the time training, but it's something that I would never want to not be doing it. It's something that comes with the sport and the territory and it's a lot of fun.”

Roque’s playing style was developed through her years of playing boys hockey. The Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., product played some girls hockey at the U-18 level and AAA girls tournaments, but she primarily played alongside boys up until the NCAA level. Playing hockey with boys has allowed Roque to leverage her physical play into winning puck battles.

“Playing with guys you're never faster than them and you're never bigger than them,” said Roque. “I'm a playmaker, I'm smart, I know how to play the game, I get the game. So for me, playing with boys really helped me develop in that way.

“Once I switched to girls hockey, I started to have to adapt to them and it helped me grow even more. My coaches were like, ‘no, you need to hold onto the puck, you need to shoot more. You're no longer just the playmaker’ and I think that's a huge thing is trying to come into my own of bringing the puck to the net yourself.”

For all the accolades she receives for her on-ice play, Roque is notably the first-ever Indigenous player to play for Team USA and wants to see the sport become more diverse.

“To be the first it means a lot because hopefully young Indigenous girls and even boys are seeing me on the U.S. [team] playing hockey and are like ‘okay, I want to play hockey too,’” said Roque.

“That's a huge thing for me is I think hockey needs to get a lot more diverse and we have a lot more girls playing hockey now and the more girls, the better for the sport. It really should just be this welcoming environment like it really was for me so I'm hoping that maybe more kids are feeling more welcome in their sport if they see me out there playing.”