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Air Force Falcons take to the ice during the Air Force Falcons men's hockey game against the American International College Yellow Jackets at the United States Air Force Academy Cadet Ice Arena at the academy in Colorado Springs on Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020. The Falcons fall 5-1 to AIC. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

The Air Force hockey team social media accounts have featured a steady stream of photos of Falcons with masks on, lifting weights.

Apparently that’s a pretty accurate representation of what's happening.

With the start to the season officially delayed, coach Frank Serratore said the coaches decided to turn the players over “primarily” to strength and conditioning coach Drew Bodette.

There’s ice time available to players, but staff members are using this unexpected extra time to get a young team “bigger, faster, stronger, more explosive” and avoid burnout. They anticipate a shorter season with more meaningful games and they’re getting the Falcons ready the best way they know how, for now.

“There’s still a lot of unknowns,” Serratore said.

“This is something that’s out of our control right now. I think the powers that be are attempting to navigate things as best they can.”

The Hockey Commissioners Association announced Thursday that the start of competition for the 2020-21 Division I season will be pushed back from the first weeks of October.

While other conferences were more descriptive, 11-team Atlantic Hockey kept it to three sentences, one of which was acknowledgement of the HCA announcement.

“From an Atlantic Hockey perspective, we are still working with our Return-to-Play committee to put together protocols that can safely accommodate all of our student-athletes,” a statement on the conference website said. “Please continue to check-in as we announce further information.”

Meanwhile an academy spokesman described the methods it’s using to keep positive cases of coronavirus “well below” 1% of the cadet student body. Much could change, but for now, the hockey team builds.

“We’re going to stay optimistic that we are going to have a season,” Serratore said. “We have to take that approach.”

The Ivy League postponed all fall sports until Jan. 1. Hockey East announced it would prioritize "competition between league members.” With a possibility other conferences will follow suit, there’s an incentive to focus inward.

Serratore said there are several contingency plans being put together, though it’s still too early to tell which one will be needed. He said Atlantic Hockey has a conference-only schedule that starts Jan. 1, but there’s discussion about increasing the scope.

If they can safely do so, there's a desire to play nonconference games in December or maybe even late November.

Whether college football conferences are able to hold the pandemic fallout in check will be watched. The academy announced on Monday that it plans to host Navy on Oct. 3 in front of only cadets even though the football team's Mountain West slate was postponed.

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