#USPHLNationals Elite Team Preview: Potomac Patriots

By Joshua Boyd / USPHLElite.com 


Welcome to the Nationals, Potomac Patriots. A legacy member of the USPHL Elite (and USPHL Premier) in 2017-18, the Patriots have had a long and winding road to get to Utica not just this year, but over their seven years in the league. 

For the first five years in the Elite, the Patriots were unable to crest the .500 mark, coming closest in 2021-22 with a 14-23-4-3 mark. Then, 2022 came along and the Patriots organization saw a massive turnaround as former pro player Josh Gratton (who saw 86 NHL games as part of an international career) launched a head-spinning culture change, after originally arriving in 2020. 

Since then, the Patriots have regularly been a tough draw for every opponent and, to put the exclamation point on the point, both their Elite and Premier teams qualified together for the first time here in 2024. The Patriots have fully arrived.

“It feels great having made Nationals for the first time! We have come a long way since taking over here at Potomac and we are excited to see what this group can do,” said Alex Grose, the Elite Head Coach. Grose is one of very few current coaches to have also played in the USPHL, as he was part of the Patriots’ inaugural USPHL Elite team in 2013-14, which was actually his fourth season in the organization. After his college playing career at George Mason University ended, he became a coach there in 2018-19, and he joined the Patriots staff two years later. 

“We are looking to just have fun this week going into it,” said Grose, when asked how the team was preparing with just about 10 days between games. “We know we’re one of the best teams so if we are healthy and in good spirits we will do well!” 

In qualifying, the Patriots defeated longtime Nationals staples the Charlotte Rush, two games to zero. They took Game 1 convincingly with an 8-3 victory and squeaked by in a closer 2-1 win on March 10. It could’ve easily gone the other way, Grose said, given the team’s shortage of healthy regulars.

“Our team played fantastic in our last round of playoffs. It’s no secret that Charlotte is a very good team and program every year,” said Grose. “We were really proud of our guys handling adversity over the weekend with six regular players being sick in Game 2 of the series. Our team’s depth and leadership got us through a tough one!”

This includes one of the all-time leaders for the Patriots, such as Ilya Biesiedin, who has played in the organization since 2021. He led the series in scoring with five points after posting 99 points in 98 career Elite games. Additionally, newcomers to the program Dominik Budka and Noah Ribeiro each posted three points. Goaltending-wise, Christian Nalle made 50 saves on 53 shots in Game 1 and Taeyang Lim made 47 of 48 in Game 2. 

The Dan K Show Elite Nationals Selection Show drew Potomac to face the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights on Thursday and the Metro Jets on Friday in the Seeding Round. The Patriots have never played either team (the Jets being new this year, and the Knights starting back in 2021-22). 

Among the Nationals teams they have faced are the fellow Southeast Division representatives and defending National Champion Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. The Jr. Canes gave the Patriots their last loss of the regular season back on Feb. 18, a 5-2 Jr. Canes win. Potomac finished 3-4-0-0 against Carolina this year, so it’s a great rivalry that’s grown there. They also defeated the Tampa Bay Juniors, 6-2, at the USPHL Florida College Showcase in December, and the Atlanta MadHatters 2-1 at October’s USPHL Southeast Showcase. 

All these games have given Potomac a lot of confidence to not just be at Nationals, but to be a contender to win the whole thing. 

“We think we will be the toughest team at the Nationals this year,” said Grose. “We have our sights set on Carolina, as they are the defending champion, they are well coached and work very hard! We are excited to get a chance against them!”