#USPHLPlayoffs: Charlotte Rush vs. Carolina Jr. Hurricanes

Southeast Division

Charlotte Rush (2) vs. Carolina Jr. Hurricanes (3)

All Games At Pineville Ice House, Pineville, N.C. 

Carolina Will Be Home Team For Game 2

Saturday, March 9, 2:30 p.m. EST

Sunday, March 10, 2:30 p.m. EST

Monday, March 11, 2:30 p.m. EST (If Necessary)


By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com 


The USPHL Premier Nationals wouldn’t be the Nationals without the Charlotte Rush being in the house – or would they? No one knows what it would be like if the Red and White were absent at the Premier level, because it’s never happened. They’ve qualified every year since the first in 2018, and they won the whole thing in 2021. 

That year was also the season that the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes made its Premier Nationals debut and also reached the semifinals that year. Carolina would love to get back and try to pick up on some of the success the organization’s Elite program enjoyed last year in winning their first Elite National Championship. 

The match-up with a Nationals berth on the line begins Saturday afternoon, and Jr. Canes Head Coach Kevin St. Jacques knows his Jr. Canes will have their hands full. 

“There is a tremendous amount of respect for that program. They have been a pillar for many years. And like we do every year, I just expect my guys to compete and see where everything falls at the end of 2v3 years,” said St. Jacques. “We are a good hockey team, but if we don’t believe we can win, we won’t win. Anybody can win any given night, but you have to believe that.”

“Obviously we are extremely excited to begin playoffs,” said Rush Head Coach Trevor Jewell, who was also behind the bench for the 2021 National Championship. “It’s always a challenge in our division to even make the postseason. Over the last couple weeks, we have focused on being the best version of ourselves – focusing on what makes us successful and how we can bring that to every scenario we might see. The other big part is switching our mindset from the regular season to the playoffs.”

The Jr. Canes finished the regular season against the Rush and it didn’t go very well, a 7-1 Rush win on Feb. 24 – but that also came a day after a 3-1 Jr. Canes victory, so they do know how to succeed against the powerhouse Rush. Charlotte finished 4-2-0-0 on the season series. 

“The Canes are a tough matchup. It’s been back and forth with them all year,” said Jewell. “They will be extremely prepared for us and do everything in their power to knock us off. Every time we play them, it’s a challenge. They have a solid team over there and we have our work cut out for us. It will be a very fast and physical series which will be extremely fun to watch.”

The Rush are an offensively deep team yet again this year, with six regular players averaging a point per game or better, culminating in 56 points in 37 games from Jared Weisert. Easton Stafford (48 points), defenseman Peter Keese (47) and Carson Galin (46) were the other top scorers. Defenseman Xavier Brooks posted 14 points in his 10 regular season games with the Rush. 

Don’t overlook forward Owen Cross, who put up 38 points in 40 games, and also led the team in plus-minus (+42) and hits (36). Keese – the all-time leader in Premier games played with 180 games going back to 2019 – led the team in blocked shots. 

The Rush goalies put up an average save percentage of .930 this year, led by Devin Stephens’ .942 and 1.73 GAA. Robert Bymers, who went undefeated in regulation at 11-0-1-0 with a .926 save percentage. Rocco Stolz, who went 11-1-0-1, finished at .928.  

“My expectations for our group are to stick to our game plan and play our style, and remain disciplined in everything we do,” said Jewell. “We can’t miss a single detail. We need to bring everything we have for a full 60 minutes.”

Longtime USPHL Premier veteran Caden Glamkowski led the Jr. Canes in scoring with 50 points in 40 games, and Kornel Kaibas led in goals with 25 while posting 47 points, and defenseman Keaton Toenjes also put up 41 points. Toenjes also led in plus-minus (+21) and blocked shots (46). The return of Jr. Canes veteran Anthony Eaton in December saw him eventually rack up 20 points in 20 games. 

Andris Zalmanis (11 wins, .921 save percentage) and Grant Kloeber (10 wins, .912) played the lion’s share of net minutes for Carolina, though former Elite National Champion Pavel Matiunin won a pair of games in late February.