Air Force Is Coaches’ Pick To Top Atlantic Hockey

Two-time defending conference champion Air Force was picked to finish first in the Atlantic Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll, released today at the league’s Media Day held at the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y., site of this year’s championships.

The Falcons captured seven of the ten first-place votes, accumulating 79 points overall. Mercyhurst, which lost in overtime to Air Force in last year’s AHA title game, finished second in the balloting with 70 points, including one first-place vote.

RIT is picked to finish third, getting the remaining two first-place votes and 68 points overall. Sacred Heart and last year’s regular-season champion Army round out the top five.

The remaining five teams, in order of their predicted finish, are Holy Cross, Canisius, Connecticut, Bentley, and AIC.

The league kept alive its streak of changing its playoff format each season, adopting a new system for the sixth time in as many years. Atlantic Hockey has abandoned last year’s “Final Five” format and will send four teams to Blue Cross Arena.

Teams finishing seventh through 10th will play a single first-round game with the higher seeds hosting on Saturday, March 7. The quarterfinals, held at the top four seeds, will be a best-of-three series played March 13-15. The surviving four teams will play in the semifinals at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester on Friday, March 20, with the title game slated for Saturday, March 21.

The league is in its final year of a three-year contract with Blue Cross Arena, and is in negotiations to extend the arrangement at least through 2010.

2007-08 Atlantic Hockey Association Preseason Coaches’ Poll (first-place votes in parentheses):

1. Air Force (7) 79 pts
2. Mercyhurst (1) 70
3. RIT (2) 68
4. Sacred Heart 55
5. Army 40
6. Holy Cross 38
7. Canisius 34
8. Connecticut 29
9. Bentley 26
10. AIC 11