Wisconsin freshman Annie Pankowski was named the WCHA Preseason Rookie of the Year by college hockey coaches this week. She received six votes, while teammate Baylee Wellhausen and Minnesota's Cara Piazza each received one.
Pankowski was slated to enter Wisconsin last season, but was selected to join Team USA's pre-Olympic training camps and deferred her entry to the university.
Pankowski spent months ensconced with the United States' top talent, taking part in the residence program near Boston before being one of the final cuts from the team that eventually went to Sochi in February. The second-youngest player in camp, Pankowski seemed to fly under the radar, but she clearly picked up both skill and confidence from the experience.
Since leaving that camp, Pankowski has played with Team USA's U-18 team, participating in the IIHF World Championships.
On the expectations for this incoming class:
"I think it's really awesome that all the incoming freshman have had international experience and that just kind of goes to show that we understand the higher level and the next level and what's being asked of us here. I think that we as a class have a lot to bring to the table for this team."
On having delayed her entrance to college:
"I think it's just more exciting for me that it's actually here now. I'm focusing on that I'm still a freshman and I can't get too ahead of myself. What I did in the past has to be translated into what I'm going to do here. And it has to be done through small steps."
On what she learned through her Olympic Camp experience:
"It was definitely an eye-opening experience from the beginning. It was the first time I really saw what the highest level was. In that aspect I was a little bit overwhelmed, a little over my head in the beginning. It definitely got better and I was in a pool of players who had gone through places like Wisconsin and Minnesota so they know what it's like, they'd been training hard for upwards of four years and I'd just been thrown into it with them so there was a little bit of a gap to catch up, but I felt like once I got there and got my feet under me I had a lot to offer to the team and it was a great learning experience for me as a person as a hockey player. It was a great experience."
Describing her game:
"I usually play on the right side wing and I can play left but I like to score goals and I'm a physical player and I like to get into battles and win pucks. I think my biggest asset is being able to see the ice. I like to be able to set my teammates up and score goals."
On her personal goals for the season:
"The goals I have right now are very general. Last year there was one goal and everyone had it. This year is more about development and it's more about me and it's about my other freshman and it's about the other people on the team. This year I think it's going to be about baby steps. Getting better, getting faster, getting stronger... I'm just looking forward to the experience. I know that all these girls have a lot to offer so learning is going to be a big part of that."
Here's Pankowski's intro video from UWBadgers.com: