Q&A: Hitmen’s Worob Completed A Career Of Achievements
Won Four USPHL Championships At Three Different Levels
By Joshua Boyd / USPHL.com
In 2015, the United States Premier Hockey League was still a rising force in the Youth, Midget and Junior hockey worlds, just about to enter its fourth season of operation. For Montclair, N.J., native Oscar Worob, he was excited to embark on what turned out to eventually be a six-year USPHL career that saw him come away with championships in fully 66 percent of his career, all with the Jersey Hitmen.
Worob won USPHL championships at the former 16U Futures (now USPHL 15U) level, the USPHL 18U level and he’s also won the last two Dineen Cup Championships with the Hitmen’s NCDC squad. He’ll now take his skills into NCAA hockey with Skidmore College.
He took the time to answer some questions recently about his fantastic run, all based in the Ice Vault in Wayne, N.J.
What do you think overall of the Jersey Hitmen organization and everything they offer?
I think the Hitmen is an awesome place to play both youth and junior hockey. There are a lot of great resources for the players to take advantage of: Skills coach Justin Stanlick, Skating coach Angelo Serse, Goalie coach Jochen Reimer, and last but not least, the best Strength Coach, Gerry Defilippo. Along with playing in one of the nicest rinks in the USPHL, the Hitmen provides a year-long program that focuses on development and a winning culture.
What are your thoughts on the USPHL and the several levels of play offered, from Youth to Midget to Junior?
The USPHL has been my home for close to 7 years now and I have played at basically every level in the league. There is something special about being able to go from 14U all the way to juniors playing for the same organization in the same league. You obviously grow relationships with teammates and coaches in your organization, but you also start recognizing the players you are battling against. I think playing in a competitive league and having a goal of winning a championship is important for any team. The USPHL has always put together a great championship weekend, making the year feel meaningful.
How did you (and/or your parents) first hear about the Jersey Hitmen?
Being in our own backyard, I had played countless times at the Ice Vault before joining the Jersey Hitmen (In fact, I played a season of mites as a New Jersey Bandit). The Hitmen was always a program we had heard about having a stronger Midget and Junior program in our area. So, when deciding where I wanted to play my second 14U year, we wanted to choose an organization I could have a future with and could grow with. I have always valued the connections I have made with coaches and finding an organization I could return to year after year and truly cultivate these relationships was important to me.
What did you think about your season on the former 16U Futures (now USPHL 15U) Hitmen team, and winning the 2016-17 Futures Championship?
I think that my 16U futures year was huge for my development. I wasn't physically ready to make the jump to 16U after my 14U season and the 16U Futures team gave me a great place to play against kids my same maturity.
You moved from 16U Futures to 16U to 18U over three years. Can you describe your development during those Midget years and the player you were when you arrived compared to the player you were moving on to NCDC?
My development changed dramatically over my three seasons from 16U futures to 18U. For starters a had a major growth spurt growing about 6 inches in a year. So my first year at 18U, I feel like I was just getting used to my size, while the second year I took more advantage of my size and speed.
What are your favorite memories of the 18U Championship season with Coach Anthony Yelovich?
Playing for the same organization for many years, you grow very close to the core group of guys on the team. This was our fifth year playing together and was so much fun to end the season on top. Coach Anthony Yelovich is one of my favorite coaches and people to this day. He is the kind of coach you want to play for and win with.
What did you think about joining the NCDC team as the next step from 18U? Had Coach Toby Harris been talking to you prior to joining the NCDC team?
Since joining the organization as a 14-year-old, one of my goals was to play on the top junior program for the Hitmen. I was excited when that became a real possibility for me. I had skated in a few main camps with the Hitmen over my 16U and 18U years and was familiar with Coach Harris. Coach Harris and Coach Hunt have been doing this for a long time, and their experience gave me a lot of confidence in the Hitmen Organization.
What were your thoughts on your development while with the NCDC team for two seasons?
Any time you move up a level, it is a challenge to adjust, but given the strength of the organization it forced me to improve my game. Battling for spots in the lineup every week with very talented players is a recipe for development.
Coming off a championship 18U Season, my first year at the NCDC level was a struggle. I was working hard but not achieving the goals I thought I was capable of. Even into the first half of my second season I was still working hard without the results I was looking for. The second half of the season, I felt something click. Not only was I now captain of the team, I was now producing on the offensive side as well.
What did you think about winning the Dineen Cup not once but twice?
Juniors at times can be a grind, and it's a great feeling to be rewarded for your year long efforts. Those were two very different teams and it was a pleasure to share a winning experience with both locker rooms.
What are your thoughts on committing to Skidmore College?
Playing college hockey has been a goal of mine for nearly a decade, and I am thrilled with the opportunity afforded to me by playing for Skidmore College. I could not be happier with the end result of my junior career.
With college hockey back in full swing in 2021-22, the revitalized (and expanded) college landscape reopened to some of the best USPHL alumni in the nearly 10-year history of the league. The 2022-23 season will, in fact, mark the 10th anniversary of the USPHL’s inaugural season of 2013-14.
More than 3,100 USPHL alumni - from all levels of USPHL Midget and Junior Hockey - hit the ice for teams at all divisions of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), College Hockey Federation (CHF) and U Sports, of Canada.
Several hours of research were undertaken by USPHL Media staff that involved reviewing college hockey rosters and utilizing the fantastic “Where Are They Now” tool on EliteProspects.com. From there, USPHL staff removed duplicate players, those who played in more than one USPHL league, in order to count each individual college hockey player only once.
The Tuition-Free Tier II NCDC featured more than 390 individuals who had played exclusively in the NCDC prior to moving on to college hockey for 2021-22. Including players who had also played in other USPHL levels, that number climbs to 754.
Just over 1,000 individuals who had only played in the USPHL Premier skated in college hockey in 2021-22, and another 500 came out of the USPHL Elite only. Including players who had played in additional USPHL levels, the combined number for Premier and Elite was closer to 2,400.
There were more than 1,360 advancements by players who have skated in any or all of the USPHL Midget Divisions (18U, 16U and 15U - as well as the 15U predecessor, 16U Futures) to skate in college hockey in 2021-22. Removing duplicates of players who moved between leagues, the number of individuals playing college hockey who played in just the USPHL Midget Divisions tops 1,000.
For the 2021-22 season, there were over 300 college commitments from all levels of the USPHL, including more than 90 from the NCDC, including 32 advancing to the NCAA Division I level.
To learn more about how you can become part of the USPHL, go to USPHL.com/Tryouts for contact information for every Member Organization as well as information on upcoming camps.
Opportunities always abound at the USPHL NCDC Combine Series, which has been run since 2019 to offer players the chance to skate in front of Tier II National Collegiate Development Conference coaches in Chicago and Detroit.
The knock on the door was loud and clear for Las Vegas native Ian Williams, whose performance at the Combine was so impressive that he was able to sign an NCDC Tender at the event, guaranteeing himself a spot at the Connecticut Jr. Rangers’ Main Camp and finding a spot on their 70-Man Protected List, which includes players certain to make the 2022-23 roster plus future prospects for coming years.
Williams, a 2003-born native of Las Vegas, Nev., was certainly happy with his choice to go to the USPHL NCDC Combine this year.
“I learned about the USPHL NCDC Combine series by looking up the NCDC camps online and saw the one in Chicago. I thought it would be a good opportunity,” said Williams, who attended the Chicago Combine held at the Fifth Third Arena in downtown Chicago, Ill., a facility that also serves as the Practice Home Of The Chicago Blackhawks.
“I had a positive experience at the combine. I got a lot of ice in and also some off-ice work,” he added. “The off-ice portion of the Combine was a nice addition to the usual game setup of combines and provided another opportunity to excel and stand out.”
The off-ice part of the Chicago Combine was run by Paul Goodman, who is the Blackhawks’ Strength and Conditioning Coach and also runs the Goodman Elite Training facility on the premises.
It was after his third of three guaranteed games at the Combine that Williams was approached by Connecticut Jr. Rangers Head Coach Jim Henkel.
“He approached me after my last game at the camp,” said Williams. “My individual performance at the Combine was good. I felt I played pretty well and I think my confidence and skills from the past two seasons developing in Wenatchee (not only with the U18AAA team but also with the time I spent participating in the BCHL practies) helped me stick out to the Connecticut staff.
“I thought it was a great opportunity and I enjoyed the camp a lot,” added Williams. “There were numerous scouts and coaching staff from all over the USPHL and NCDC in attendance, which is why you go to these things.”
Watch for the announcements for the 2023 USPHL NCDC Combine series in February 2023.
P.A.L. Jr. Islanders NCDC goalie Cam Smith is extremely excited to be heading to the NCAA Division I realm with St. Lawrence University.
That said, he’s going to miss his carpools with four other P.A.L. teammates every day to practice.
“I lived with a bunch of other guys on the team, and we had a long drive to the rink,” said the 2002-born native of Stamford, Conn. “It was five guys in the car every day, so we had some great talks and I got closer with every one of my teammates throughout the season.”
He’ll get a chance to bond with a new set of teammates as he moves north and west to the St. Lawrence campus at Canton, N.Y. He’s on the right track in terms of chemistry as he struck up a great rapport with the St. Lawrence coaches during the year-long recruiting process.
“I originally reached out to them during my senior year of high school [at Hotchkiss School], but we didn’t end up having any games that season,” added Smith, referring to the 2020-21 campaign when many high school hockey seasons were canceled. “I knew that playing juniors would be a chance to prove myself. I told them I’d be playing for P.A.L. in the NCDC, and they said they’d be watching me. I kept trying to improve my game and get better every month and it worked out.”
By November - just over a month into the season - Smith was leading in wins (seven), goals against average (1.93) and save percentage (.943). He was also the league leader in GAA and save percentage in December, and the save percentage leader in January. In the end, he came across the line with a .920 save percentage and a 2.81 goals against average, both keeping him in the Top 10 for the season.
“The [St. Lawrence] coaches were so nice about the entire process, always checking in,” said Smith. “They kept talking with me and after the season, I moved on to play in the USHL. After my season ended there, I went up to campus for a tour and they offered me a spot.
“When I was on campus,” he added, “it was just a great feeling, everyone smiling and saying Hi, a real community feeling. They also have a ton of new renovations and new facilities, so it just made me feel comfortable and made me want to play Division I hockey at that school.”
He is also greatly indebted to P.A.L. NCDC Head Coach Mike Marcou for giving him a chance to make the team last year after a season without games in 2020-21.
“I went to the NCDC Showcase last year and after my second game there, Coach Marcou offered me a tender,” said Smith. “That showcase was a great way to showcase myself in front of the coaches. He told me I could be a No. 1 guy, and I just got that feeling this was a coach who would believe in me.”
Unfortunately, Marcou’s cancer and treatments kept him off the bench for much of the 2021-22 season. Smith worked mostly with Assistant Coach Bobby Goepfert, who was himself a former P.A.L. player and NCAA Division I goaltender, first with Providence and then at St. Cloud State. Goepfert was a two-time All-American in 2006 and 2007, both years at St. Cloud State.
“Goepfert took over as head coach during the season so he was balancing running the full team and also keeping an eye on the goalies,” said Smith, whose creasemate Harrison Chesney is also going the NCAA Division I route with Northeastern. “Marcou is going to be back this year, and he has a fire under him now, so Bobby will be able to more involved with the incoming P.A.L. goalies.”
What kind of goaltender is St. Lawrence gaining?
“They said they like my calmness and quickness. I’m calm in stressful situations and I can also be quick on saves in second and third opportunities That balance of quickness and patience, if you can prove it in NCDC, you can develop in the NCAA as well,” said Smith.
Smith is focusing more on his off-ice conditioning during the off-season, while still getting on the ice as many as three times per week.
“Throughout the six-month regular season, you have to contain bad habits and get stronger throughout. I need to maintain my quickness and patience and just get my body ready for the upcoming season,” added Smith.
When he gets to St. Lawrence, of course, he’ll be spending much more time on academics than hockey, and that is also a challenge he welcomes.
“I’m looking into psychology and economics. When I was at Hotchkiss, I took some courses with some professors who were interested in psychology, in terms of how the brain works and helping other people,” said Smith. “ With economics, I can get a better understanding of the economy and what’s happening in the world.”
The USPHL congratulates Cam Smith, his family, the P.A.L. Jr. Islanders and St. Lawrence University for his commitment.