RIT Heads Atlantic Hockey Coaches Poll

Defending champion and national semifinalist Rochester Institute of Technology has been picked to 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 2011 league championships.

Mercyhurst, which finished fourth last season, was picked to finish second and Air Force third. Newcomers Niagara and Robert Morris were tied for fourth in the poll.

The league has a new schedule this season, dividing into two geographic “pods,” with each team playing the other teams in its pod three times, and teams from the other pod twice. The teams in the western scheduling “pod” finished in the top six positions in the poll.

“Atlantic Hockey continues to grow and become stronger each year, as evidenced by RIT’s success in the NCAA tournament last season,” league commissioner Bob DiGregorio said. “We’re excited to welcome Niagara and Robert Morris to the league, two excellent hockey programs.”

The expansion also means a new playoff format for the AHA. While there will be a single set of standings, the top two teams in each scheduling pod will receive a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

The third- through sixth-place teams in each pod will play in first-round games, with the surviving eight teams then seeded according to the overall standings and paired off in best-of-three quarterfinal series. The four winners then advance to Rochester for the semifinals and finals.

The full poll follows:

Team (first-place votes)   Points
1. RIT (8) 118
2. Mercyhurst (2) 101
3. Air Force 98
4. Niagara 82
Robert Morris (2) 82
6. Canisius 63
7. Sacred Heart 61
8. Holy Cross 60
9. Army 48
10. Bentley 47
11. Connecticut 21
12. American International 11