By Joshua Boyd / USPHLPremier.com
Potomac Patriots (2) vs. Richmond Generals (3)
All games played at Pineville Ice House, Charlotte, NC
Potomac is home team for Games 1 and 3, Richmond is home team for Game 2
Game 1: Saturday, March 11, 5:30 p.m. EST
Game 2: Sunday, March 11, 5:30 p.m. EST
Game 3: Monday, March 13, 5:30 p.m. EST (if necessary)
The Potomac Patriots made organizational history with their first USPHL Premier playoff berth this year. Not just making it, but making it as the higher (No. 2) seed in their draw with the No. 3 Richmond Generals, one of their Virginia rivals.
Richmond hit the ice this year with many members coming up from their USPHL Elite team that had won the National Championship for that level in 2022. With a full handle on what it takes to win at that level, these members were immediate leaders for their Premier brethren new to the Generals, their family-like culture and the USPHL as a whole.
“I think our regular season was extremely strong this season overall. I feel we were at the top of the league all year and fell off a bit, similar to our Elite team because of some major injuries to key players throughout the season. I think our season will finish extremely strong in the fact that we will once again be a league leader in college commits and next level junior placements which is always the priority,” said Generals GM/Coach R.C. Lyke. “ Our team is looking forward to continuing our season and heading to Utica to hopefully compete for the National Championship. To do that, we know we have to go through an extremely strong and talented Potomac team that stands in our way.”
They are a very familiar opponent, especially since they were the opponent for the Gens’ final two games. They also saw a lot more of each other than your standard game entails, as they went to a shootout in both games, each taking a win in the other’s barn. All told, the Gens finished 5-2-0-1 against the Patriots (who were 3-4-0-1 in the series).
The Patriots were a mild threat early on, starting 5-3 in September, but then went 10-3-1-0 through October and November, including wins against the defending National Champion Rockets Hockey Club and a three-point weekend against Charlotte to end the month.
“Josh Gratton and R.J. Zeigler have assembled a very big, strong, and high-scoring Potomac team this year. Our games with Potomac have been fast, physical, and loaded with high scoring plays and skill,” said Lyke. “We know they are a very big team that is extremely offensive that has a lot of depth throughout their lineup with players who can score.”
Richmond enjoyed time at first place during the season, but due in part to injuries (leading them to dress 32 people in total this year), they had some ups and downs. They were never really in jeopardy of dropping out of the top four, though. They know their strengths, and those will be brought to bear against Potomac.
The Generals brought together a heavily international group that featured a top five averaging more than a point per game, led by Swede Jakob Johanesson with 61 points.
Goals were at a premium as they always are in the Southeast Division, and that is partially due to strong goaltending for both teams. They both finished with top 10 goaltenders in Lucas Brine (.938) and Jadon Lee (.933), the latter helping the Elite Generals to the National title last year.
“For us, we will use our overall skill, speed, and our depth throughout our lineup to be successful. We must force Potomac to defend and create chances using our speed and skill to be successful,” said Lyke. “We cannot allow their highly skilled forward group to have space and time to make plays and shoot pucks.
“Overall this series is going to come down to capitalizing on chances, limiting turnovers that lead to direct scoring opportunities and plays, and lastly discipline,” said Lyke. “We will really be focusing on our special teams play and running through our systems. The biggest thing is getting and keeping guys healthy and working on lots of puck touches and repetitions at this point in the season.”