If everything had gone as originally planned, Alex Roos would have already finished his senior season of college hockey. Instead, he’s spending his last year of eligibility over 1,000 miles away from where he started.
As a freshman forward at Colorado College, Roos was a key contributor, ranking second on the team with 10 goals. But before Roos’ sophomore season, the Tigers hired a new head coach, Mike Haviland. As Haviland remade the program with his own recruits, Roos’ playing time dwindled, and he scored just five goals combined during his sophomore and junior seasons.
“By the time my senior season came along, the coaches had decided to go in a different direction with the team and didn’t see me fitting into their plans,” Roos said. “I figured it would be best for me and the team that I pursue another opportunity.”
So Roos spent last spring in the classroom instead of on the ice, focusing on earning his economics degree. But by no means was he done with hockey.
“I took maybe a couple days off to kind of figure everything out,” Roos said. “(Then I) got right back into the gym and made sure I was staying in shape, skating, working on my skills. Really made sure that I used that time to not only stay in shape, but to get even better.”
Having graduated from Colorado College, Roos was free to play his final season as a graduate transfer for any program he chose without having to sit out a year. He settled on Michigan, where he had visited while in high school and was familiar with several members of the coaching staff — including current head coach Mel Pearson, who was then an assistant under Red Berenson.
It wasn’t only the prestige of Michigan’s hockey program that brought Roos to Ann Arbor, though — part of the appeal was his desire to earn a masters degree.
“Obviously knowing some of the staff here helped just with familiarity — them knowing me, me knowing them,” Roos said. “Also the school itself — I wanted to pursue my master's degree at the business school, so getting into that program was a large part of it as well. And then just being a part of this tradition of being a Michigan Wolverine was something that I was really interested in, really excited me.”
The youth of the Wolverines’ roster also attracted Roos, as he saw an opportunity to contribute veteran leadership to the group. Pearson himself describes Roos as a “really good person” who “communicates well.” However, Roos has tried to balance his role of elder statesman with that of being a newcomer to the team.
“Being a new guy but also having experience, I haven’t really tried to force my knowledge on any guys,” Roos said. “Just kind of letting them know that if they ever need help or have any questions, I’m here. Hopefully show them by example by leading the way on the ice and showing the proper way to play. Just anything I can do to help.”
Despite this expertise on and off the ice, Roos has had to deal with his own share of new experiences. This includes the drastic change in environment from Colorado College — a liberal arts school with an enrollment of just over 2,000 — to Michigan, a university nearly 20 times as large, and having to fit in as a graduate student without an incoming class.
According to Roos, his teammates have made this transition as smooth as possible.
“The guys have been more than inviting and welcomed me with open arms, so that was really nice,” Roos said. “Just the overall feel of being in a bigger town, bigger school was definitely a little bit of a culture shock, but I feel like I’m adjusting well and really enjoying myself.”
Roos certainly does appear to be enjoying himself on the ice. He got started on the right foot in his first game with the Wolverines, scoring a goal and adding an assist in an exhibition victory over Western Ontario, and also found the net in Michigan’s official season opener at St. Lawrence last weekend.
“It had been a while since I’d scored a goal,” Roos said. “But it was definitely exciting and nice to get one in the first game and get that feeling and adrenaline rush of scoring.”
The Wolverines’ youth and difficulties scoring were both well-documented last season. And while Roos might not be able to fix these problems by himself, he’s given Michigan just what it needs in both of those areas.
“You have to earn your experience,” Pearson said. “You can’t win it in a lottery. Someone just can’t bang their magic wand and give you experience — you have to acquire it. I think that really helps when you’re dealing with younger people and being able to help them go through some of the things he did.
“He just adds to that senior class because he’s been through it. He’s spent four years in college already so he understands the ups and downs, the grind of college and the academic balance with the athletic balance. He’s a great addition.”