RIT picked to finish first in Atlantic Hockey poll

Three-time defending regular season champion Rochester Institute of Technology is picked to finish first in the 2011-12 Atlantic Hockey Association preseason coach’s poll, announced at the conference’s annual media day held at Blue Cross Arena, which will again serve as the site of the league’s championship.

The Tigers edged playoff champion Air Force by a single point, with each team getting five first place votes. Holy Cross received the other two first-place votes and finished third in the poll.

“On paper, we are really excited with what we return and who we bring in this season, but obviously that has to translate to on-ice success,” said RIT coach Wayne Wilson. “Our goals remain the same, as we want to win as many non-conference games as we can, get home ice advantage for the AHA playoffs, and most importantly, win our conference championship, and get to the NCAA Tournament.”

The Atlantic Hockey schedule will remain the same as last year, with eastern and western “pods.” Each of the six western teams (Air Force, Canisius, Mercyhurst, Niagara, Robert Morris, RIT) will play each other three times, as will the eastern pod (American International, Army, Bentley Connecticut, Holy Cross, Sacred Heart). Each team will play two games against teams in the other pod.

The playoff format has changed, marking the ninth different system used in the league’s nine-year history. This year the top four teams receive a bye into the quarterfinal round with seeds 5-8 hosting seeds 9-12 in a best two-out-of-three weekend series. The winners will then be re-seeded and travel to the top four seeds for a best-two-out-of-three quarterfinal series.  The four winners will then travel to the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, N.Y. for the semifinals and finals.

Team (First-place votes)Points
1. Rochester Institute of Technology (5)113
2. Air Force (5)112
3. Holy Cross (2)103
4. Niagara89
5. Connecticut79
6. Robert Morris70
7. Mercyhurst59
8. Army51
9. Canisius42
10. Bentley41
11. Sacred Heart20
12. American International13