By Grace Mello / USPHLElite.com
Seed: Southeast #2
Round Robin Schedule
All games played at Utica University Nexus Center, Utica, N.Y.
Game 1: Thursday, March 23, vs. Northern Cyclones, 2:30 p.m. EST
Game 2: Friday, March 24, vs. Florida Eels, 12 p.m.
Game 3: Saturday, March 25, vs. Jersey HItmen, 12 p.m.
Originally the No. 3 seed from the USPHL Elite’s Southeast division, the Charlotte Rush pulled off a division playoff win and will be traveling to Utica, N.Y. for the National Championship.
The Rush played the Southeast’s No. 2 seed, Potomac Patriots in the division final. Prior to the weekend, Charlotte was picked to be defeated in three games. Associate Head Coach of the Rush Trevor Kleckner shares how this really fired up the team.
“Both games were very close and that’s how playoff hockey is going to be played no matter the opponent. Knowing we held strong in two straight playoff games to advance was great to see,” said Kleckner. “I didn’t think we had our effort in Game 2 but at the end of the day good teams find ways to win. Even when we’re not at our best, we know we can win games.”
This will be the team’s fourth consecutive appearance at the National Championship, including
winning it in 2021.
“It puts a large amount of pressure on us to succeed in the postseason year in and year out, but pressure is a privilege. When you’re continually one of the best programs in the nation, there’s a huge target on your back,” said Kleckne. “It’s no secret that not many teams like us, but that’s usually the case when you are a winning program.”
Kleckner played for the Elite Charlotte Rush, wearing an “A” as alternate captain, from 2015-17. He tells us that being a part of this organization before as a player and now as a coach is one of the greatest privileges he has ever had.
“The staff does a great job of recruiting a team that is capable of winning it all year in and year out and the players that wear the Rush sweater understand that,” Kleckner said.
Key players that aided in the success of the Rush this season included forwards Chuck Norris (‘06/Weddington, N.C.) and Spencer Barrow (‘04/Massapequa, N.Y.)
“Their ability to put points on the board helped build leads to where we could play comfortably as a team,” Kleckner tells us.
Defenseman Wilder Outman (‘03/Fairview, TX) and Ryan Freeman (‘02/Hope Mills, NC) played well on the back end for the Rush.
“There weren’t many chances against them when they were on the ice. We’re very excited to see how [our players] perform at Nationals,” Kleckner added.
Kleckner went on to say that goaltending was a huge reason that the Rush are able to move on.
“Devin DeCarlo stood on his head for both games and definitely gave the players in front of him reason to play with confidence,” he said. “Goaltending is a huge part of postseason success and he’s going to be a big part of our run.”
He tells us that preparing on and off the ice will be crucial for success. Kleckner shares that they are fortunate enough to play in one of the toughest divisions in the league, preparing them for what they will face at the National Championship.
“As a team, there’s not a lot of adjustments to make other than to just play our game. When we’re moving pucks, jumping into space, and getting pucks on net, we’re one of the best teams in the nation. When we try to over-complicate things is when we tend to get into trouble,” he said.
“We have to be prepared for each team and every single scenario that could happen during a playoff game. The teams that are the best prepared are normally those hoisting the trophy at the end.”
Charlotte will open play on Thursday against the Northern Cyclones; the following day they will face the Florida Eels; and on March 25 they will take on the Jersey Hitmen. The Rush faced the Eels – the Florida Division Champion – three times at showcases and went 2-1 over the season.
“You always want to be striving for the best and to be at the top, nothing less,” Kleckner added. “Our goal is a National Championship and anything less than that is a failure of a season.”