Rouleau Makes Most of Second Chance
by Adam Wodon/Managing Editor
A program in decline or not, growing up a stone's throw from Michigan Tech, young Peter Rouleau imagined himself playing for the Huskies one day.
This was during the '90s, when the program had gone on a significant decline following what had been 25 years of excellence. But it was of no matter, as Peter his father and brother made the trek to watch the likes of current Tech assistant Pat Mikesch play.
But when Rouleau was finally offered the opportunity to play for Michigan Tech, he turned it down. He opted for the home run, a bigger and better school on the upswing.
But that school never came calling.
One year after Tech's offer, the school pulled it, leaving Rouleau, having spent the season with the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL, without a place to play.
So he played, instead, for the school that was not a stone's throw away, but a stone's drop — Finlandia, in Division III.
"I knew it would be tough (in Green Bay), but I thought I could go out and put up more points than I did," Rouleau said. "I was disappointed. I thought (Tech was sticking by me).
"Now that I look back, I wish I did take it (the first offer), but I wanted to see if I could get other offers."
Rouleau regrouped, and figured he could still have a career overseas after college, since he saw two former Finlandia players do the same. But after one year with Finlandia, he worked out with Tech during the summer, and was told he could try to walk on. Though he'd have to sit out a transfer year.
"I could have went back to Finlandia, but I got on some good terms with (the coach) and he said I'd love to see you move on," Rouleau said. "So I went. If it didn't work at Tech, I could've went back to Finlandia."
Rouleau made the team, though the first year was a struggle, getting used to the pace. He spent this past summer getting stronger.
With a year under his belt, Rouleau is enjoying the more ice time he is getting this season. Last season, in just 16 games, he had two assists and no goals. This year, he gets a regular shift, and power-play time, and has five goals to show for it.
"I just wanted to make sure I was playing better defensively and hopefully come up with more offensive chances," he said.
And though five goals doesn't seem like a lot, it leads a team that has an incredibly balanced attack, spreading a handful of goals through almost the entire roster.
"Everyone would want to lead the team in goals, but team-wise I look at that (opponents) can't just key on one of our guys."
Rouleau has also shifted between center and wing — this past weekend against North Dakota he was playing wing with Malcolm Gwilliam on the other side, and freshman Alex Gagne at center.
"He can find you when you get open, and he moves to get open when he doesn't have the puck," Rouleau said.
"I don't mind playing either one (wing or center). At center, you're more down low, where we try to outnumber the puck."
That's actually a change in defensive strategy from last season, when Tech employed more of a "man-to-man" (so to speak) system. This year, the goal of coach Jamie Russell is to take away the front and make teams shoot from the perimeter — the team's goaltending is so good, Tech believes, that open perimeter shots will be stopped.
The defense worked well against the Sioux, and the offense did enough to win. The strategy there was to try to take advantage of North Dakota's struggles in net since Philipe Lamoureux returned from an injury.
"Coach just said shoot the puck a lot and go to the net for rebounds, and there were pucks that were sitting there," Rouleau said. "We heard their goalies were struggling."
The wins put the buzz back into the Tech program, after a four-game home losing streak temporarily made everyone worry again. Now it's off to the Great Lakes Invitational, starting with a date against Michigan, just after Christmas.
"There's more talk (in town) about the team and how we're playing this year," Rouleau said. "We have eight wins this year and we didn't have that last year. We're getting more fans. Coach is talking about the recruits coming in next year. Not to put this year in the past, but we're looking forward to it."