By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
Talk about a roller coaster of emotions – first, you’re in the National Championship game, but then your opponent comes away with the win, but then you’re talking to your future NCAA college hockey home – all in the space of a few hours.
This was the reality for three-year Charlotte Rush standout Cam Perez, whose conversations with New England College started the very same day the Rush faced and fell to the Northern Cyclones in the USPHL Premier National Championship in Utica, N.Y.
“I actually started talking to New England College a couple hours after my final game in Utica and continuously talked with them for a few weeks leading up to my visit,” added Perez, a 2002-born blueliner from West Hartford, Conn. “At my visit, Coach Tom Carroll said he loved my ability to move with the puck as a D-man and how offensive-minded I was, as that was very different from the D they had this previous season.”
Perez was part of the Rush’s USPHL Elite National Championship team in 2021, as well as an All-Star Elite blueliner in 2021-22. His 64 points in 74 career regular season and playoff games in the Elite is the second-best all-time for the Rush at that level. He made a seamless transition to the Premier this year, putting up 30 points in 39 games and adding two points during the Rush’s nine-game postseason. This once again illustrates how beneficial time in the Elite is towards Premier potency and an NCAA future.
“What interested me most at first about New England College was definitely Coach Tom Carroll. His background of coaching is unlike a lot of NCAA Division III coaches as he was with Notre Dame for 14 years and with Des Moines Buccaneers in the USHL for a few years as well before he came to NEC,” said Perez. “Coach Tom Carroll’s track record is great with moving players on from college to pro and having someone like him to guide me and help me get to the next level really attracted me to the school. Being a smaller school on the academic side, I really liked the 1-on-1 a lot of the students get with their teachers. They are smaller classes, which gives you a lot more opportunity to get help when you need it and I definitely liked that a lot.”
He will be studying Sports and Recreation Management at NEC, which is located in Henniker, N.H. The hockey program has made three trips to the NCAA National Championships in its history, which dates to 1969. Perez is excited to be going there alongside Rush teammates Shane Adler and Matt Esquerre.
“Shane and I actually went on our visit together a few weeks prior to our last game against the Cyclones. I really enjoyed the campus and atmosphere there. Having a rink right in the middle of campus was huge for me. Being able to get on the ice kind of whenever and just having that access really made me a lot more interested,” said Perez. “The campus itself was beautiful, right in the middle of New Hampshire, only an hour out from Boston. It just seemed like a great spot for me. Being in the NEHC Coach Fletch [Fletcher Fineman] and Coach Carroll couldn’t stress enough how good the division they were in was and how great the competition was every night, and that really kind of sold me to commit there as I wanted the hard competition and I want to be around other great players.”
“Being able to go to school with Matt and Shane next year is awesome for multiple reasons. It definitely is going to be nice being able to have a couple familiar faces and close friends going into my first year, but also it is going be very nice to have them by my side on the ice as I’m sure our chemistry from last season will translate to this coming season as well,” said Perez.
Chemistry and a family atmosphere have always played a part in why Perez remained with the Rush organization for three seasons.
“The Charlotte Rush as an organization is the best place to be as a Tier 3 program, no questions asked,” said Perez. “Charlotte is really unlike any other team – they push you to be not just a better player but a better person, participating in multiple charity events, helping out with youth practices and also just to be a good person.
“On the ice, you’re getting the best coaching you can get in this league day in and day out,” he added. “We go over video before every practice and have workouts after every practice, while also playing in the best division. Everybody carries their own weight, which is why Charlotte is such a winning program and is why they attract the best players.
“The Rush have a very good track record of sending guys to play NCAA. Multiple past players are currently playing Division I, Division III and even pro,” Perez said. “This is what attracts the players that come into Charlotte and what players want in a program and is why Charlotte is continuously a top team.”
He is also proud to now be a USPHL alumni heading to NCAA college, after taking full advantage of the league’s multi-layered Tier III system, moving from the USPHL 16U Division with the Springfield Pics and up to the Elite and Premier with Charlotte.
“The USPHL is a great place to develop as a player. There are so many opportunities in this league to become a good player and that will take you to wherever you want to go,” he said. “What this league has done the past few years is remarkable and I’m sure it will only go up from here.”
Perez will continue to work hard as he has done for so long, whether with the Rush or prior to that with the prestigious Elite Hockey Academy AAA program in Northford, Conn. He wants to go to New England College at the peak of his game, and helping Coach Carroll continue to build a strong and well-respected NCAA program.
“I really want to work on a lot this summer, but my main thing is my skating and vision with the puck,” he said. “Going into my first NCAA season, I have to be ready to be that young guy again and play a way smarter game.”
The USPHL congratulates Cam Perez, his family, the Charlotte Rush and New England College for his commitment.