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.