Three-time defending champion Air Force has been picked to again repeat as champions in the Atlantic Hockey coaches poll, announced Tuesday at the league’s media day, held at Blue Cross Arena, site of the 2010 league championships.
Mercyhurst, which lost to Air Force in the AHA finals last season, is picked to finish second. RIT, which tied the Falcons for the regular season title, is ranked third.
The full poll:
1. Air Force (8) 80
2. Mercyhurst (2) 70
3. RIT 67
4. Holy Cross 54
5. Canisius 53
6. Army 40
7. Bentley 31
8. Sacred Heart 27
9. Connecticut 18
10. American International 10
“We’re very proud not only to the the champions of Atlantic Hockey but as members of Atlantic Hockey,” Air Force coach Frank Serratore said. “The depth of the league has gotten better each year from top to bottom. I see it in my own team in the non-conference schedule we play. A few years ago when we played teams like Denver and Michigan, it used to be like we were playing in slow motion. Not so anymore.”
“Air Force is the benchmark that we’d all like to follow,” RIT coach Wayne Wilson said. “They’ve changed the mind-set of our league and the rest of college hockey with their performance in the NCAA tournament.
“We’re happy with the level of consistency year to year with our program in a very competitive league.
“RIT and Air Force were both taken to three games in our quarterfinals last season, and that shows that you have to bring it every night. We’re picked third and our goal is to finish in the top four and get home ice (in the quarterfinals). That will be a challenge since every team has that goal and every team is good enough to finish in the top four.”
Atlantic Hockey will expand to 12 teams next season, adding Niagara and Robert Morris.
“We’re looking forward to a great season coming up and the addition of Niagara and Robert Morris next year,” Serratore said. “I think you’ll see those programs fitting in closer to the top of our league than the bottom, making things even more competitive.”
Also Tuesday, the league announced that Blue Cross Arena in Rochester will host the league championship in 2011, extending what is now a year-to-year contract.