Samuels-Thomas gives Quinnipiac an early boost, and teammates feed off it

Yale forward and Pittsburgh native Jesse Root may have helped the Bulldogs get to the Consol Energy Center with a pair of goals two weeks ago in the NCAA West Regional, but it was Connecticut native Jordan Samuels-Thomas of Quinnipiac who ensured a national title game between the in-state and ECAC Hockey rivals.

Samuels-Thomas scored Quinnipiac’s first goal on a wraparound 1:49 into the game, and put a shot on net that Ben Arnt jumped on to give the Bobcats a 2-0 lead over St. Cloud State at 5:07 in the first period of a 4-1 victory in the Frozen Four semifinals Thursday.

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“Goody [Russell Goodman] won the battle which allowed me to get the puck,” Samuels-Thomas said. “And then I got in there, and Arnt won a battle and allowed me to put the puck on net and he cashed in.”

But Samuels-Thomas, who leads the Bobcats with 17 goals this year, did more than just give Quinnipiac an early lead.

“He was dominant even outside of the goals,” Bobcats coach Rand Pecknold said. “When you’re going to have a big shift, not only is it important for that actual shift, but it gets our bench going. Our guys are really close, they’re real tight. He had a couple of shifts and you’ve got [Matthew] Peca and twins [Connor and Kellen Jones] on the bench. Now they’re licking their chops because they want to do that.”

That stretch culminated in a 3-0 lead by the first intermission and helped set up the first all-ECAC national title game since Boston University and Boston College met in 1978. The last time a pair of current league teams met in the national championship was Clarkson and Cornell in 1970. Saturday’s game will be the fifth time a pair of ECAC teams have met in the national title game.

Samuels-Thomas, a West Hartford, Conn., native, is in his first season with the Bobcats after two years at Bowling Green. His early jump ensured that an ECAC team will win the national title for the first time since Harvard in 1989.

“He makes a great power play and power move down low on both plays,” St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko said. “I thought it was kind of simple. They just made two big plays to get them started in the game.”

Quinnipiac swept the regular season series with Yale and won 3-0 in the ECAC Hockey Championship consolation game on March 23, although the Bulldogs were without starting goalie Jeff Malcolm for both regular season games.

“This is a different team than when we beat them in Atlantic City,” Pecknold said. “They got some new jam; they’re competing hard. [They] have some players that are on a different level than they were three or four weeks ago. Really, that 3-0 win in Atlantic City for us, we had nothing to play for. Literally nothing. We tried to motivate our guys and we weren’t very good. … We probably shouldn’t have won that game.”