February 18, 2014 at 1:00 am

High school girl hockey player proves she can hang with boys

Hockey player Abby Roque
Hockey player Abby Roque: She plays with the boys on her high school team and made the national U-18 team as a 16-year-old.

Trenton — Who is that talented No. 14 player on Sault Ste. Marie’s hockey team with the long hair flowing under the helmet?

Well, it’s Abby Roque and she is one of the top players on Sault Ste. Marie’s state-ranked team that advanced to the Division 3 championship game last year, losing to Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood, 4-2.

Oh, and Roque also is one of the elite players in USA women’s hockey, recently making the national U-18 team as a 16-year-old.

Roque fits right in while playing boys high school hockey. She skates well and is an outstanding passer, taking pride in her play-making ability. She assisted on her team’s first goal in a 3-1 win over Toledo St. John’s Jesuit Friday afternoon in the MIHL Prep Hockey Showcase at the Kennedy Recreation Center.

Roque showed her toughness, as well. She was slammed to the ice by two players in front of St. John’s net during a delayed penalty, then shoved one of her opponents and put a glove to his face while heading back to her bench. She also received a roughing penalty in the final period.

She has four goals and 29 points in 18 games for Sault Ste. Marie (16-2-2), missing two games while trying out for the U.S. national team in December in Minnesota.

“Growing up in Sault. Ste. Marie, there’s no girls hockey so up through my whole childhood I’ve played boys hockey,” said Roque, the baby-faced 5-foot-6, 155-pound sophomore forward with an outgoing personality. “I moved there from New York when I was four and started playing. I love the competitive level, being able to check and everything. It’s fast hockey with great passing.

“In the past year and a half playing with boys, I’ve gotten a lot faster, I’ve gotten a lot stronger for sure, and I see plays faster now. I’ve really improved a lot. Really, I’m just one of the boys. I’m friends with all of them. They’re really good to me. It’s just like a normal team, you know, we hang out together, go out to eat and things like that.”

Does she mind getting hit, mixing it up with boys in the corners and in front of the net?

“I don’t take anything from anyone so I don’t take any crap,” Roque said.

“Still, the best part of my game is how I like to make plays with my passing. I feel like I’m a playmaker.”

St. John’s defenseman Aiden Roberts admitted he was trying to get inside Roque’s head with the physical play.

“We didn’t know until a little into the game, you could tell by the hair,” Roberts said of Roque being a girl. “You always try to get into a player’s head. No, it didn’t work with her. She’s a tough player. She was roughing it up with us. She also made a couple of good plays, moved the puck well.”

Sure, it helps to have your father be a Division 1 head coach like Abby’s. Jim Roque is in his ninth season as head coach at Lake Superior State.

“I always go to the rink with my dad all summer,” Abby said. “I’ll work out there.

“He’ll go shoot pucks, give me passes and we’ll work on quick release. Whenever he comes to my games, he’ll tell me if I’m doing something wrong, but he’ll do it in a constructive way.”

Sault. Ste. Marie coach John Ferroni has high praise for Abby, saying: “Her focus is tremendous. She’s so dialed in to everything she does. She’s a four-point student too.

“On the ice, she has great vision and that gives her the ability to make plays. She made the U.S. 18 national women’s team and yes, we were surprised since she’s just 16. She’s an amazing young lady who gets along with everybody.”

Yes, she does according to teammate Wil Gauthier, a senior forward who will play for Abby’s father at Lake Superior State.

“She’s just like one of the guys,” said Gauthier, who has 41 points. “She just fits right in. She makes really, really good passes and she’s smart out there. She can also take a hit. You certainly can’t tell she’s a girl out there by the way she plays.”

Roque talked about making the U.S. national team.

“I made the U.S. 18 team and it’s pretty special,” Roque said. “They asked me to try out. I didn’t know how it was going to go. When they told me I make the team, it was pretty neat.

“I want to play Division 1 college women’s hockey one day, then maybe the Olympics some day. You know all the girls on the U-18 team eventually have a shot at the Olympics. It’s all about how they develop through the years.”

Roque will have a busy schedule in March … and is looking forward to it, especially since she’s on the team with two other girls from Michigan, Megan Kellere of North Farmington and Tori Sullivan of West Bloomfield.

“On March 15th I go to New York City for training camp, fly in for five days of camp, then on the 20th we’ll fly to Budapest, Hungary for 10 days of the World Championships. I’m really looking forward to it.

“We (Sault Ste. Marie) also want to get back to the state championship game. We want to win the state championship this year, not just get to the title game. And, we want Cranbrook.”

Yes, Abby Roque knows exactly what she wants and she’s working hard to reach those goals.

Abby Roque is accepted by the boys on Sault Ste. Marie's team and respected by opponents. / Daniel Mears / The Detroit News
Abby Roque, the daughter of Lake Superior State hockey coach Jim Roque, ... (Photos by Daniel Mears / Detroit News)