By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
It’s a huge decision when you’re a junior player who has no eligibility left and offers from NCAA Division III institutions on the table to consider. It helps, though, to know you have teammates in the same situation, so why not join together for mutual and team benefit down the road?
Dylan Ray is one of four Charlotte Rush 2022-23 USPHL Premier players to have committed to Nichols College, a Division III team based out of the small college in Dudley, Mass. He’ll be joined there by teammates Aidan Flynn, Zach Gmerek and Nick Anderson.
“I’m super excited to go to Nichols with my Rush teammates. They are three guys I’ve grown close to over the last two seasons in Charlotte so I’m excited for the opportunity to play with them for four more years,” said Ray, an ‘02 defenseman from Long Beach, N.Y., who was a co-captain for the Rush this season. “We will look to bring the Rush’s winning culture with us.”
Ray made his first visit in February and the momentum picked up thereafter.
“The commitment discussion started in February after my first visit,” added Ray. “The coaches liked my strong defensive skills and ability to transition the puck.
“On the academic side, Nichols’ programs of study were broad and the business and data science look challenging and have deep ties to some of the biggest financial institutions,” Ray added. “On the hockey side, Coach [Alex] Gacek is looking to build a strong program and I wanted to be a part of that success.”
He and his teammates will be making their new home in a small rural central Massachusetts town of just under 12,000 residents and on a campus of just over 1,700 undergraduate students.
“The campus was beautiful when I was there on my visit. I also loved the close-knit community feel of the school. When it came to making a decision, Nichols checked all the boxes I was looking for in a school both academically and athletically,” said Ray.
Ray, who had previously played at the USPHL 18U level for the Connecticut Jr. Rangers in 2019-20, joined the Rush in 2021 after a season playing 18U in the Midwest.
“There are no words to describe how great the Charlotte Rush is as an organization. I’m incredibly thankful for all the opportunities they gave me on and off the ice as well as the amazing family I’ve gained from the players, coaches, and billets,” added Ray, who posted 40 points in 82 regular season games (including 30 this past season), and four points in 16 career playoff games. The Rush went to the National Championship game this year, falling there to the Northern Cyclones.
“I liked the development model a lot. The model allowed for the defensemen to be more offensive and use our skating to be fourth and fifth forwards in the offensive zone,” said Ray. “I think the biggest part that helped my game was learning to close gaps and defend skating forward.”
He feels the Rush and the USPHL put him into a great position to have college hockey success due to the constant battles the Rush saw all year in the Southeast Division.
“One of the biggest reasons I was keen on playing for Charlotte in the USPHL was their history of player advancement and their college attention,” added Ray. “In terms of preparing me for NCAA hockey, I was fortunate to play in the Southeast Division which is the best in the league.”
The Rush quartet is going to be joining a team that has seen improvement in wins over each of Head Coach Mike Parnell’s three seasons so far. He’s hoping to bring the program back to the NCAA National Tournament, where the Bison competed as recently as 2018 and three times before that going back to 2009. The mission clear, Ray is putting in the work during the spring and summer to be ready to go and help in the Bison’s push to continue improving.
“The focus for the off-season will be strength training and working on my speed and conditioning,” said Ray.
The USPHL congratulates Dylan Ray, his family, the Charlotte Rush and Nichols College for his commitment.