Jordan Samuels-Thomas had two rules when he shopped around
for a new college in the spring of 2011 after spending two
frustrating seasons at Bowling Green.
Samuels-Thomas didn't want to be part of another rebuilding project after seeing the Bowling Green program go through two coaching changes in his two seasons. Second, Samuels-Thomas wanted to find a school close to his home in Windsor, Conn.
Samuels-Thomas decided on Quinnipiac, a school 40 minutes from his hometown. Coach Randy Pecknold gave Jordan-Thomas his assurances, despite the team's seventh-place finish in ECAC Hockey in 2010-11, the Bobcats would compete for conference championships soon.
Less than two years later, Quinnipiac (18-3-3 overall, 11-0-1) is in the hunt for a national championship, currently boasting the longest unbeaten streak in NCAA Division 1 at 17 games (15-0-2). In the most recent Pairwise rankings, Quinnipiac is the top-ranked team in the nation.
“Honestly, I wanted to be on a team that was ranked,” Jordan-Thomas says. “But being part of this, I couldn't have foreseen that. I knew we had a good team that would compete for championships. We've been on quite a roll. We're put together so well, and we're so well coached. But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised by our success.”
Samuels-Thomas is a perfect example of Quinnipiac's success story. After leading Bowling Green in points as a freshman and sophomore, he has accepted a lesser role after a redshirt season last winter. The redshirt junior has recorded seven goals and five assists in 24 games, spending most of his time on the third line. He ranks fourth on the team in points behind senior captain Jeremy Langlois (11-12-23), senior forward Clay Harvey (3-12-15) and sophomore forward Matthew Peca (7-7-14).
“When I talked to Coach Pecknold before I came here, he walked me through the foundation of the program,” Samuels-Thomas says. “He talked about Peca, who would be there when it was my turn to start playing. It seemed like we'd be a team that would catch people by surprise. It made sense to me.”
Quinnipiac started the season with a record of 3-3-1 in its first seven games. Its losses came against Robert Morris, Colgate and American International. After spending a year off the ice on game day, Samuels-Thomas struggled to find his rhythm.
“Last year was a tough year because I wanted to contribute,” Samuels-Thomas says. “All the games I played before Christmas this year were all over the map. I figured out my game after Christmas break, and as a team, we learned we have to play our best game no matter who we play.”
All 10 of Quinnipiac's remaining regular-season games will be played against ECAC opponents.
The Bobcats are perfect in league play thus far this season – a trend Samuels-Thomas expects to continue.
“I think we go into every weekend wanting four points,” Samuels-Thomas said “If we pay attention to the details, we know everything we do will contribute to whether we win or lose. The small details need to be taken care of first, and the bigger things will come.”
Game of the week
Quinnipiac at Yale
Saturday, Feb. 4 (7 p.m.), Ingalls Rink
The No. 1 team in the nation in the Pairwise Rankings, Quinnipiac, will put its NCAA-best 17-game unbeaten streak on the line Saturday in a battle with the Bulldogs, who currently sit in a tie for fifth in the Pairwise Rankings. Yale has also been strong of late. The Bulldogs had a five-game winning streak snapped last weekend in a loss to Colgate.
Player of the week
Joe Zarbo, Clarkson University
Zarbo recorded a hat trick – Clarkson's first in over two years – Friday night in a 5-1 win at Harvard. He came back the next night by scoring Clarkson's lone goal in a 5-1 loss at Dartmouth. He finished the weekend with a plus-3 rating. He leads the conference in goals scored with nine.
Quinnipiac (18-3-3, 11-0-1): The last time
the Bobcats earned the top ranking in the Pairwise was in 2009
after opening the season at 12-1-0.
Yale (12-5-3, 8-4-1): The Bulldogs' loss to
Colgate Saturday snapped a six-game unbeaten streak. Still, they
should feel no shame after splitting with Cornell and Colgate in
one of the toughest road swings in conference play. The Elis
average 3.20 goals per game and allow 2.70.
Union (13-8-4, 6-4-3): The Dutchmen have had
arguably the top special teams play of any team in the NCAA this
season. They rank second in the country on the penalty kill (91.2
percent) and first on the power play (26.3 percent).
Dartmouth (11-7-2, 7-5-1):
Dartmouth's core will be back next season. Sophomore Tyler
Sikura (9-16-25) and juniors Matt Lindblad (9-14-23) and Eric
Robinson (10-6-16) lead the team in scoring. Junior Cab Morris, who
is the team primary goaltender, has logged an 8-3-1 record with a
Princeton (7-8-4, 5-4-3): The Tigers are
trending upward. They have won their last two games and are 4-1
since New Year's Day. They ranked third in the nation on the power
play and 11th on the penalty kill.
RPI (8-11-5, 3-6-3): The Engineers continue
to compete with the top teams in the nation. They last time out,
they gave Union all it could handle in a 3-2 defeat at the
Times-Union Center. Sophomore forwards Ryan Haggerty (10-8-18) and
Jacob Laliberte (7-10-17) continue to improve each game.
Colgate (13-9-2, 5-6-1): Freshman goalie Spencer Finney has been huge for Colgate. Last weekend, Finney stopped 30-plus shots in each of the Raiders' wins over Brown and Yale. After allowing two goals on 69 shots, he ranks in the top five in the league in every goaltending category.
Cornell (8-9-2, 4-6-2): The Big Red have seen better days. They suffered a rare sweep at Lynah Rink last weekend with losses to Yale and Brown. In the 3-0 loss to Brown, they were shut out for the first time since Dec. 3, 2011.
St. Lawrence (11-10-3, 4-5-3): The Saints might be the most improved team in the ECAC in the new year. They are riding a four-game unbeaten streak after sweeping Dartmouth and Harvard on the road last week. The streak comes on the heels of a stretch in which the Saints won only one game in their previous seven.
Brown (7-9-4, 3-6-4): The Bears have earned splits each of the last three weekends. They split at Colgate and Cornell last weekend, losing to the Raiders before defeating Cornell. The Bears have won five of their last eight games.
Clarkson (5-13-6, 4-6-2): Clarkson has struggled at Cheel Arena this year with just a 1-8-2 record at home, but the Green and Gold have the opportunity to improve upon that mark with six of their final 10 games in Potsdam.
Harvard (5-13-1, 3-11-0): The biggest bright spot for Harvard in an otherwise disappointing season has been freshman Jimmy Vesey, who notched four goals in three league contests last week. Vesey leads all rookies nationally with 0.62 goals per game.