Air Force had a relatively small freshman class last year, but doubled that number with the 12-member class of 2023, consisting of seven forwards, four defensemen and one goaltender.
According to a team release, the class arrived at the academy June 27 and just completed basic training.
Brandon Koch, defenseman, No. 20
6-foot, 175 pounds
Brandon is the younger brother of Matt Koch, co-captain and leading scorer of the 2018-19 Falcons who just graduated. He’s also shown an ability to rack up assists, leading the blue line in scoring through 59 games with the Coulee Region Chill of the North American Hockey League in 2017-18, and winding up second among defensemen on the Wenatchee Wild of the British Columbia Hockey League last season.
“He is pretty much who I am. We’re the same player,” Matt said of Brandon last season.
Ty Pochipinski, forward, No. 18
The two-game series against Colorado College — whether one is outdoors remains to be seen — will be interesting for Springs native Pochipinski, who appeared in four games with CC last season, scoring against New Hampshire. He returned to the BCHL’s Penticton Vees, finishing with five points (three goals, two assists) in 18 games.
Blake Bride, forward, No. 12
Colorado native Bride captained the Sioux Falls Stampede to the U.S. Hockey League’s Clark Cup championship, with 16 goals and 18 assists in 62 games. He added two game-winners in 12 playoff games.
Dalton Weigel, defenseman, No. 47
Weigel was the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings’ top-scoring defenseman with 45 points (seven goals, 38 assists) in 56 games, plus seven assists in 12 playoff games as the Wings won the Robertson Cup Championship.
Andrew Kruse, defenseman, No. 2
Kruse led defensemen in scoring on the NAHL’s Minnesota Magicians last season (seven goals, 34 assists).
Keenan Lund, forward, No. 13
Kruse led the NAHL’s Minot Minotauros in assists in 2018-19 with 31, and went with the team to the Robertson Cup title game the year before.
Luke Manning, forward, No. 19
Manning put up 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 55 games last season with the USHL’s Des Moines Buccaneers.
Bennett Norlin, forward, No. 15
In 58 games with the West Kelowna Warriors, Norlin had 22 goals and 12 assists last season.
Austin Park, goaltender, No. 41
The Highlands Ranch native also comes to the Falcons from Wenatchee, where he gathered quite a bit of playoff experience. He played in 19 of 20 playoff games in 2017-18 on the way to BCHL and Doyle Cup championships, and appeared in 17 more in 2018-19.
Willie Reim, forward, No. 23
The big forward was Norlin’s teammate on the Warriors. He was third on the team with 24 goals and 58 points.
Luke Rowe, defenseman, No. 4
Rowe captained the Boston Jr. Bruins in 2018-19 and had 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists) on the way to a National Collegiate Development Conference title.
Mitch Walinski, forward, No. 37
Walinski split the 2018-19 season with the NAHL’s Bismarck Bobcats and Corpus Christi IceRays, contributing a combined 33 points.