Ice Rebs give Rosena new perspective.
The success the Ole Miss hockey team has had the past two seasons, is one of the most novel sports stories at Ole Miss that has yet to be told. The man behind the team’s success, is twenty six year old, head coach coach and former player Angelo Rosena. The quiet young man from Hamilton, NJ would be the last person to tell you that he has been a tremendous part in why his team, has become the closest to winning a national championship for Ole Miss in decades.
From 2008-2009 Rosena attended Hudson Valley Community in Troy, NY where he played hockey at the junior college level. Rosena was known as a utility player, who could play every position except goalie. In 2010 Angelo transferred to Ole Miss to study Parks and Recreation, while playing hockey for a young and upcoming hockey program at Ole Miss. Rosena knew early on that he wanted to help the program on and off the ice.
"The reason why I came down in the first place was the hockey team. With it being only its second year when I came, I knew there was opportunity beyond playing to help build a program. But I didn’t think I would be coaching this soon. I was thinking more about being President."
Rosena’s path to becoming a head coach started a lot sooner than what he intended. On November 20th, 2011 Rosena took an awkward hit, injuring his knee in a 6-3 loss to Mississippi State. After taking two weeks of rest, Rosena injured his knee again in a 2-0 loss against Georiga Tech.
"When I went to get an MRI, they told me that I was pretty much done playing and that I needed to have surgery. They also told me that it was chronic, and that it had been there for several years. I just didn't know about it." said Rosena
Rosena took the rest of the season off and stepped away from the game. It was hard for him to even be at the rink, watching his teammates play the game that he loved almost more than anything. But he still went to all the games to support his teammates as the program recorded its first winning season in its three year history at the time.
"At first it was a struggle, because obviously you want to be out there. But I realized I could do more, helping these guys by being somewhat of a teacher with my knowledge of the game."
After the season, the opportunity opened up for Rosena to become an assistant coach and in the spring of 2012, he took the job.
"I knew I wanted to coach at some point. I didn't know it was going to be here. A lot of things came into play that I didn't expect. I obviously didn't expect to get hurt. My initial though was 'Okay, I'll come here for two years and play, get my degree and go back home or somewhere.' The opportunities opened up here, and I realized that probably wouldn't happen anywhere else. I'm here for a reason. Things are starting to mold as to (what) I'm suppose to be doing here."
In Rosena’s first year as an assistant coach the Rebels , went 17-12-1, and advanced to nationals for the first time in the program’s history in 2013. Rosena did a lot of work with helping, the former head coach Kristian Skou with game planning and in-game strategy.
Despite the success of the team, a group of players walked away during the off-season for various reasons. Including the third leading scorer from the previous season, Cody Fullinwider.
"It was definitely a struggle, at the beginning of the year. It was a lot of leadership that we lost, it was a lot of veterans. Whether they were a captain or not, they were veterans. That leadership was absent from the beginning."
The first month into the 2013-2014 season, Kristian Skou had to step down from the head coaching job after getting a job opportunity outside of hockey, leaving Rosena with the head coaching responsibilities.
"Angelo stepped up, just kinda lead everyone. He was there for every practice, every game, every weekend. He was on campus all the time," said sophomore forward Dan Warneke "He was there off the ice during the week. Whether you needed help with homework, or study hall he was there for that. He did a good job just stepping in and taking control."
Being a former player and a young coach can be a challenge when earning the respect of his players. Rosena still has a strong chemistry built up between he and his teammates, which helps with players buying into his coaching philosophy.
"Some of the advantages were knowing him, knowing his personality, his style of hockey and how he wants us to play system wise," said former teammate, junior forward Matt Obstarcyk "Everybody on the team kinda knows how he wants us to play, from playing with him. He’s taught me a ton with his patience. He’s basically a role model to everyone on the team." said Obstarczyk
"Coach Rosena keeps the discpline very strong on and off the ice. He is very professional about everything he does. Suit and tie for games, always looks great. You could say he was the best looking coach at Nationals." said Warneke
In what could have been a rebuilding year, Rosena was able to lead his team to nationals for the second year in a row, with an improved record of 17-9-1. With the team improving every year, Rosena remains optimistic that the program is heading into the off-season in the right direction.
"The more success that we have puts us on the radar to bring in more talent which will in turn make us even better. As long as we keep the talent level and the culture that we have now, I can just see the team getting better. As we improve with our record, we will get noticed more by the university (and) by the city of Oxford. Which will help us grow our fanbase and eventually bring an ice rink to Oxford."