#USPHLNationals Premier Team Preview: Charlotte Rush 

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com 


The Charlotte Rush are making their seventh straight trip to the USPHL Premier National Championship tournament. They would like to make it two titles, especially after coming so close in 2023 as well as 2018. They came through to close out a “double dip” title alongside their USPHL Elite brethren. They want to become just the second team to win two USPHL Premier titles (the Hampton Roads were the first, winning the league’s only back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019). 

“To be returning to Nationals for a seventh straight year is a great feeling. It’s a testament to what this program has built over the years and a by-product of such an amazing ownership group,” said Head Coach Trevor Jewell. “It is such a great event and we couldn’t be more proud and excited to get up to Utica and get going.”

The Rush only got here because they had to push their way past a very tough Carolina Jr. Hurricanes team. The battle for the Tarheel state saw a 3-0 Charlotte Rush victory followed by a 4-3 Jr. Canes victory on Sunday, March 10. The Rush gave no quarter on Monday as they cruised to a 6-2 victory to punch that seventh straight ticket. 

“I thought we played very well in two of the three games. The one game we let slip, we got a little selfish and took too many penalties and it cost us,” said Jewell. “But Carolina is a great hockey team, they won a lot of games this year and had a big group of veterans that battled and wanted to continue playing. They gave us a really good fight and we needed to overcome that adversity to get where we wanted to go. It was a great series, it always is. But we are proud to be heading back up north.”

The Rush were holding high-intensity practices in order to “make sure we are the best version of ourselves” as they prepare to travel early this coming week towards the 2022-built Utica University Nexus Center in Utica, N.Y., for the second straight year. 

“[We need] to make sure that all of our details within our system are ironed out and we are prepared for every scenario,” said Jewell. “We will need to manage our players and make sure they are doing everything they can to take care of themselves to be in the best possible form when we arrive in Utica.”

The quartet of forwards Zach Nicholls, Easton Stafford (Wilkes University commit) and Jared Weisert (Norwich University) and defenseman Peter Keese (Albertus Magnus College) all registered five points apiece to lead the Rush against the Jr. Canes. 

Veteran goalie Devin Stephens (Bethel University) was outstanding in stopping 92 of 98 shots over the three games for a .939 save percentage. 

Every team at Nationals will be stacked, so they know they have to be ready to get every team’s best. They’ll face the No. 1 overall seed Connecticut Jr. Rangers, a first-time match-up for both organizations, and then on Friday in Game 2 of the Seeding Round, they’ll face the host Utica Jr. Comets in a prime time match-up at 7:45 p.m. The Rush are 8-2-1-1 in their games against Nationals teams this year. This includes a 3-2-1-0 run against the Potomac Patriots, the other Southeast Division representative. They had two wins against the Florida Eels in showcase games this year, while the Rush also defeated Bold City, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Nashville. They took a shootout loss to the Metro Jets at the USPHL Tampa Showcase, falling 3-2 on Jan. 6. 

“Obviously at this time of year, only the best are still standing. I believe they will all be tough teams, every game will be a challenge,” said Jewell. “Every team is there for a reason and no one can be taken lightly. As we have seen over the years, anyone can beat anyone here and preparation is key. You have to be prepared and ready for each challenge (i.e. every team) that you will face. Each day it only gets harder at Nationals.”