For Quinnipiac forward Jordan Samuels-Thomas (WPG), two years can make a world of difference.
"I remember this time two years ago sitting in my dorm room at [Bowling Green]," said Samuels-Thomas, just a day before his team would play St. Cloud State University in the semi-final match of the Frozen Four.
"I knew I was going to transfer and I was talking to schools, and was talking to [assistant] coach [Bill] Riga. He was like 'what are you doing right now?' I said, 'I'm watching the Frozen Four' and he said 'well how badly do you want to be there?' Little did I know two years from then I would have that opportunity."
Drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, Samuels-Thomas would languish with the Bowling Green Falcons for two seasons, playing on a team that would win only five games in 2009-10 and 10 in 2010-11.
"[Playing for Quinnipiac] has been a blessing. I’m a transfer here. I transferred from Bowling Green and we quite frankly didn’t have the most success. So to come here, and do the things we have [done], that 21-game win streak, winning a regular season championship, and coming to the [Frozen Four], it's been a blessing and I thank god for the opportunity, because it is a lot different from where I was two years ago. I was not sure where I was going to be playing hockey. To being able to play at Quinnipiac, which is in my home state of Connecticut, to have that opportunity is more than I can ask for."
Even before he ever played a game of college hockey, Samuels-Thomas was known as a big, skilled player with power forward potential, and although he did not experience a great deal of success with Bowling Green as a team, he showed flashes of potential, managing 46 points through 71 games. With Quinnipiac though, Samuels-Thomas has really blossomed into the power forward he was projected as many years earlier.
"I'd say when I'm playing my ideal game, it's when I'm physical, both when I have the puck and when I don't," said Samuels-Thomas. "I think being physical is an essential part of my game. Not being afraid to go in the corners [and] winning every single battle. That's what I pride myself on. Win every single battle. Whether it's in the neutral zone, whether it's in the corner of the ice. I may not always be making the big hit, but it's just winning those one-on-one battles, because I should with the size that I have."
It took the native of West Hartford, Connecticut some time to acclimate to his new surroundings however.
"Coming into this year was a struggle because I didn't play any games last year. The pace of the game was crazy. Everyone's moving fast. You have all these little guys ripping around, moving a million miles per hour. So it took me awhile."
Headed into the winter break, Samuels-Thomas had two goals and four assists through 17 games.
"I remember going home at Christmas break pretty down. Just wondering what happened to my game because at my two years at Bowling Green I led the team in points and I had like six or seven points at Christmas break. I went back home, did some serious soul-searching, and I skated with my guy who I used to get private lessons from when I was like 16 or 15, just to get back to my roots. I did a lot of that type of stuff and came back [to school] with a whole new set of confidence. Just getting [time] off was the best thing that ever happened to me this year."
Samuels-Thomas exploded offensively upon returning from break, posting two goals and an assist in his first game back, and 20 points over the remaining 24 games of the season. Through 41 games on the season he posted 16 goals and 26 points, including six powerplay goals, and five game-winners.
Aside from deciding to transfer to a new school, the summer of 2011 offered another unique experience for Samuels-Thomas.
"The year I decided to transfer, I wasn't necessarily sure what I was going to do. That summer…it was the same thing with the Atlanta Thrashers. Like what are they going to do? Are they going to stay in Atlanta? Are they going to go Winnipeg? It was definitely a weird time."
Things however worked out in that regard, and Samuels-Thomas is now a prospect for the Winnipeg Jets.
"To be part of the Jets organization is awesome. I got to go out there this summer and for the first time got to meet the coaching staff, front office guys, and a lot of the other prospects. It was a great experience.
"[Jets fans] are extremely passionate. They've been waiting (over) fifteen years for a team to come back and they felt should have never left, so there is that added emphasis, different than a city that is getting a team for the first time. That's what made rookie camp so much fun. We're having practice, just doing basic stuff and the place is sold out. We get treated really well there…it was awesome.
"I'm not sure if it's a second chance, but it is definitely a second evaluation. With what happened with Atlanta, the whole front office was cleared right? You got a whole new front office in Winnipeg, so now you're kind of getting a [new] look. You're trying to impress a whole new group of people."