Mercyhurst College is the top team once again in Atlantic Hockey, according to the preseason coaches poll unveiled Tuesday morning at Atlantic Hockey’s media day. The Lakers received six first-place votes and 85 points total to take the top spot.
Mercyhurst was the preseason No. 1 last year in the inaugural edition of Atlantic Hockey but finished second to Holy Cross, the regular-season and postseason champion.
“It’s an honor to be chosen number one by your peers,” said Mercyhurst head coach Rick Gotkin, “but really these polls are for the fans.”
Coming in second in the balloting was Sacred Heart. A surprise playoff team a season ago, the Pioneers made it to the championship before falling to Holy Cross. Sacred Heart received one first-place vote and 71 points.
Close on their heels was two teams tied for third in the balloting, Holy Cross and Quinnipiac. Both received one first-place vote and 69 points overall. Quinnipiac is playing in its final season in Atlantic Hockey before moving to the ECAC.
In fifth was Connecticut with 56 points. The Huskies return a large class from last season that includes league MVP Tim Olsen.
Canisius and Bentley, two clubs expected to be much improved from a season ago, came in sixth and seventh respectively in the balloting. Army, where Brian Riley is taking over the coaching reins from brother Rob, will be a young team and finished eighth. The ninth and final spot went to American International, which could surprise with one of the league’s best goaltenders in Frank Novello.
The Atlantic Hockey regular season, which gets underway the weekend of October 8, has additional value this year because of a new postseason playoff format. The league will return to a home-ice quarterfinal format, with the addition of a No. 8 vs. No. 9 play-in game taking place the Tuesday prior to the quarterfinals. The league’s final four will be hosted at the rink of the highest remaining seed after the quarterfinals. The entire playoff will be single elimination.