By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
Devin Stephens has experienced hockey in some of the so-called “traditional” markets – he grew up and developed his game in Michigan and has played Tier II hockey in the NCDC in Boston and in Connecticut. And don’t let him hear you calling Charlotte anything but a tried-and-true hockey town. The Charlotte Rush have made it so.
“The Charlotte Rush are the best. The decision to rejoin them this season couldn’t have been easier or simpler. The commitment the organization has for all of its players is unmatched,” said Stephens, a two-year USPHL Premier goalie for the Rush. “They have a very high standard for you every day, which really helps push us to better ourselves every single day.
“After joining the Rush the middle of last season and seeing what they were all about, it was impossible to not return,” he added. “You are surrounded by like-minded coaches and teammates who all care about each other, and their success. We’re one big family and I really feel like there’s no one like us.”
His next hockey stop is Minnesota, where he will join the NCAA program at Bethel University in the northeastern suburbs of Minneapolis.
“I first started talking to Bethel at around the beginning of December. It started with a few emails and calls back and forth, which turned into a virtual tour, and then finally an on campus visit!” said Stephens. “I believe they really like the calmness and confidence in my game, which helps the team really slow the game down and make it easier in our defensive zone. However, I still can be explosive and make those big desperation saves when necessary.”
The Royals are getting a proven winner in the USPHL Premier, as he has put up 17 wins in just 21 Premier games since 2022. He’s put up four shutouts (an average of roughly one every five games) and his career save percentage is .949. Even at the Tier II, he still had high marks of a .912 save percentage. What Stephens is getting in Bethel is the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s leading team, at 15-5-3 this year.
“How the team and program conducts themselves is what really caught my eye at first. The coaching staff is incredible, and after a few discussions together I could really tell they care about their players and it goes beyond just hockey. They really strive to help us become better players, teammates, friends, young men, students, etc.,” said Stephens. “Obviously, a very eager willingness to be successful helps as well, knowing I’ll be surrounding myself around people with the same goals and ambitions as myself.
“The team has jumped from the bottom of Division 3 to the top in a few short years,” Stephens added. “The academics are very good also, with very small classes and professors who really care. I’ll be able to develop personal relationships with them which will help me grow and strive to be my best in the classroom.”
Stephens is planning on majoring in Environmental Science with a minor in either Pre-Law or Business, and he knows he’ll be right at home doing so.
“I have been fortunate enough to visit! Bethel has a very connected community of faculty and students. It feels like one big family, and it’s a very homey and welcoming feeling wherever you are,” Stephens said.
The Rush have helped ready him in many ways, and that especially includes focusing on the granular details of his goaltending. They are obviously looking to win everything they can – especially if they can get to Nationals – but they’re also looking to make powerful contributors to the NCAA hockey realm.
“They’ve really helped with taking my game to another level. They have a goalie coach out every week for us, which has not been the case for many programs I’ve also been with. I feel like they’ve helped calm and elevate my game to where it needs to be to be successful at the NCAA level,” said Stephens. “I’ll definitely continue to work on my skating and tracking. I feel like those skills can always be improved, and being very strong on my edges will help keep me ahead of the play because every chance, shot, pass, etc will be coming faster and harder.”
Big events such as the USPHL Southeast, Florida and Tampa Showcases give Rush players the opportunity to be scouted by several different schools across the country. Stephens is the fourth NCAA commitment this season, leading the way for the USPHL Premier. Max Kontir is headed to Lebanon Valley College, Carson Galin is going to Stevenson University and Peter Keese – the USPHL Premier’s all-time leader in games played – is bound for Albertus Magnus College.
“The league is great when it comes to getting seen. There is no shortage of showcases where college coaches can come see you play,” said Stephens. “The USPHL Nationals at the end of the season is unmatched as well. I believe the USPHL as a whole has helped give me a great foundation and stepping stone of exactly what I needed to compete at the NCAA level.”
The USPHL congratulates Devin Stephens, his family, the Charlotte Rush and Bethel University for his commitment.