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Off the Ice: Thomas Samuelsen

Toby Corriston
Thomas Samuelsen skates onto the ice at Bon Secours Wellness Arena for Clemson’s game against South Carolina in February

The Clemson club ice hockey team concluded a historic season in March, capped off by the program’s second-ever AAU National Tournament and first quarterfinal appearance. From setting a record for most wins in a single semester, to upsetting the No. 1 and No. 3 seeds in the quest for the College Hockey South DII Championship trophy, the team understands its success is not as serendipitous as an outside audience may assume.

The team definitely knows that none of the above accolades would have been possible without its beloved captain: Thomas “Sammers” Samuelsen.

The Williston, Vermont, native has proven himself to be an integral part of the club hockey program, both on and off the ice. Not only has he amassed more than 60 points in his career – 32 of which he recorded this season – but he also served as the team captain this season and as an alternate captain last season, a true testament to his character and role in the locker room.

“I would hope [my teammates] remember me as a good friend, a good person,” he told The Tiger. “Someone who’s reliable and responsible. I’d like them to know that I gave it my best.”

Despite skating just one lap around his hometown rink when he first laced up his skates at four years old, Samuelsen grew to love hockey so much that he immediately sought out the club team when he received his Clemson acceptance letter.

“When I decided I was going to come here, I looked [the team] up. I knew I wanted to keep playing, so I DMed the Twitter because I started in January. So I was starting halfway through the season.

“I just messaged them and said, ‘Hey, I played a bunch growing up and whatnot. Do you guys have tryouts?’ And then we had tryouts and me, [Ben Brucker] and [Charles DuBose] all tried out together. We all started at the same time, which was pretty cool.”

Those tryouts marked the start of something special.

During Samuelsen’s time as a Tiger, the program’s quality has grown exponentially across the board. Not only did the team grow in terms of talent and success on the ice, but also into a more professional experience for the players. Samuelsen’s freshman season in 2019 consisted of locker room struggles (as in, the team didn’t have one), playing games at 10 or 11 p.m., and a roster with just six total defensemen. Clemson posted a 5-16-3 record during the 2018-19 season.

Now, in Samuelsen’s closing season, the team has a permanent locker room at a brand-new rink in Greer, South Carolina, where they are able to play their games at more reasonable times.

Additionally, the club had so many players try out in the fall that it made the decision to add a Division III team next season to compensate for the interest. After the team’s impressive 17-12-1 record this year, on top of additional accomplishments, the Tigers are expecting a significant influx of interested players.

“Ever since I joined the program, I’ve been pretty motivated to make it better,” Samuelsen said. “I think it was good timing because hockey has grown so much since I’ve been here, so I’ve been able to see it grow. From freshman year to senior year, there was a big change in hockey in a good way, so that was also motivating to be able to see that and be part of that change.”

In addition to building the program during his time at Clemson, Samuelsen has also succeeded in building lifelong friendships and making memories with his teammates.

“I think my front-to-back favorite experience was when we played Tennessee in Knoxville [last year],” Samuelsen explained. “We played them Friday night, then a bunch of us were at the football game on Saturday when Tennessee beat Alabama. We were right behind the field goal they kicked the game-winner in. Then we played again on Sunday. So, as a lover of sports, you literally cannot draw up a better weekend.”

As Samuelsen moves on to the next stage of his life, he plans to stay in the South and work in sales.

“Just can’t beat the weather,” he said.

And, of course, he’ll look back fondly on his experience as a hockey player at Clemson. Despite his success over the last few years, he intends to continue leaving his mark on the sport that shaped his experience.

“I’d love to get into some coaching, too, when the opportunity presents itself,” Samuelsen said. “I’m definitely not ready to step away from the game completely.”

Samuelsen is a senior Business Management major with a minor in Accounting.

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About the Contributors
Kelly Kaelblein
Kelly Kaelblein, Asst. Sports Editor
Toby Corriston, Asst. Photo Editor
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