California Rubber

California’s and Nevada’s Authoritative Voice of Ice and Inline Hockey

Top USPHL Californians earning NCAA college commitments


Joe DiGiulio and his Hampton Roads Whalers teammates were looking for a third chance to win a USPHL Premier championship but instead, ran up against an opponent that not only kept them from this goal, but stopped the entire globe in the process.

The coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the USPHL National Championships, along with the cancellation or postponement of the playoffs for nearly every other pro and amateur hockey league that hadn’t already wrapped up their postseasons.


So DiGiulio shifted his goal to sealing up his college hockey future, deciding on NCAA Division III Neumann University.

The San Jose native wrapped up a three-year career with the Whalers, winning the 2018 and 2019 national championship. He scored 52 points in 131 regular-season games, and he added eight more points in 16 playoff games.

“Although this season ended without the opportunity to three-peat, the two national championships meant a lot,” said DiGiulio. “I had the best teammates on and off the ice.”

DiGiulio was one of many Californians playing in the USPHL to make their NCAA D-III commitments during (or prior to) the worldwide pause.

From the same USPHL Premier Southeast Division, the Charlotte Rush saw three NCAA commitments for Golden State natives. Two-year Rush goalie Luc Fox (Valencia) made his commitment to Arcadia University in the winter, while two-year forward Philip Shemyakin (Mission Viejo) committed to Lebanon Valley College.

The Rush joined the Whalers in qualifying for the USPHL Nationals and were hoping to dislodge their division rivals from the top of the pack.

The Springfield Pics organization was one of only two to qualify both their USPHL Elite and USPHL Premier teams for the national championships.

From the Premier team, two Californians will continue to be teammates at the next level as Brandon Derdiger (Los Angeles) and Matthew Gerst (Los Altos) are joining four other Pics teammates in moving on to Framingham State University.

Derdiger registered 29 points in 80 career games with the Pics organization.

“Brandon is a hard-working forward who takes pride in all three zones,” said Framingham State head coach Mike Bailey. “He does all the little things that don’t always show up on the scoresheet but help a team win. He is a great teammate both on and off the ice whose hard work is respected by everyone alike.”

Gerst, a defenseman, scored seven points in his 78 games over two Pics seasons.

“Matt is a solid stay-at-home defenseman who takes pride in shutting down the opposing team’s top offensive players,” said Bailey. “He sees the entire ice well and makes great decisions with the puck. Matt’s great attitude and team-first approach will be a welcome addition for the Rams.”

From the always-strong Wisconsin Rapids Riverkings, Stockton native Jered Stevenson will be moving on to Lebanon Valley College, joining Shemyakin there in the fall.

“Jered had a great season this year as he led the team on and off the ice as a returner and an assistant captain,” said Riverkings assistant coach Devin Roeder. “Jered led on the ice with his play as he was an offensive threat, leading the team in goals and points per game. Off the ice, Jered was leading as he helped in the community and in the weight room, spending a lot of time doing extra workouts with teammates.”

— Joshua Boyd/

(May 28, 2020)

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