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Air Force junior defender Brandon Koch (20) shoots the puck during the first period of the Air Force Falcons’ home hockey game against their rivals the Army West Point Black Knights at the Cadet Field House ice arena on the campus of the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. (Chancey Bush /The Gazette)

Fewer than two weeks from Air Force’s first exhibition game, coaches from the Atlantic Hockey Association expect the Falcons to be one of the league’s best teams in the 2022-23 season.

AHA coaches picked Air Force No. 3 in the league's preseason poll Tuesday behind American International College (AIC) and Sacred Heart.

AIC, which has won four conference regular-season titles in a row, received eight of the nine possible first-place votes with 88 total points. Sacred Heart earned the other first-place vote and had 76 points.

Air Force tallied 68 points, followed by Rochester Institute of Technology (66) and Canisius (62).

The Falcons finished sixth in the regular season in 2021-22 with a 11-12-3 conference record. They caught fire toward the end of the season, making a run to the AHA championship game before falling to AIC.

Air Force finished the year 16-17-3 overall.

AHA coaches also named senior Brandon Koch to the preseason all-AHA team. A defenseman from Minnesota, Koch had 22 assists and 25 points last year when he earned third team all-AHA honors.

Koch is one of many returners on a squad that only graduated one senior last year. Junior Will Gavin and senior Willie Reim are back after combining for 27 goals in 2021-22, as well as several other key playmakers.

Air Force plays an exhibition against cross-town rival Colorado College on Oct. 1. The Falcons begin the regular season the following week at the home-based Ice Breaker Tournament, where they will host Maine and Notre Dame.

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