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United States Air Force Academy's hockey team stands for the National Anthem before the game against Niagara University at USAFA in Colorado Springs, Friday, March 15, 2019. (Photo by Kelsey Brunner/The Gazette)

Atlantic Hockey, which includes Air Force, announced Thursday that the season will begin in less than a month: the weekend of Nov. 13-14.

Coach Frank Serratore said the Falcons’ first scheduled series is Nov. 27-28 at AIC, though they could possibly add nonconference games before that.

“But right now, this is what we got,” Serratore said.

Their first home series is Dec. 3-4, and there’s no word on fan attendance yet. Serratore hopes at least cadets will be allowed to attend, as they did when Air Force hosted Navy in football Oct. 3.

“I hope things go in the right direction and things start to get better and we can get back to somewhat of a sense of normalcy again,” Serratore said.

While the Falcons are clearly the outliers in the conference in several ways, the plan outlined in a news release by the conference highlighted those differences.

To “mitigate some of the risk factors regarding COVID-19 exposure during travel,” Atlantic Hockey will be split into eastern and western pods and Air Force is the odd man out in the 11-team league, which added Long Island University as a scheduling partner for the season. The Sharks added a men’s hockey team just this spring.

Air Force is the only team not located in the Northeast.

“That’s just the price you pay for being a geographic outlier,” Serratore said, though he noted travel would be less expensive than in ordinary seasons. The team will stay out East and play on consecutive weekends twice.

The schedule allows for four nonconference games per team and that is left to each institution.

The eastern pod contains AIC, Army, Bentley, Holy Cross and Sacred Heart. The western pod is made up of Canisius, Mercyhurst, Niagara, RIT and Robert Morris.

All pod teams will play five games against each pod member, plus two each against Air Force and LIU for 22 league games. Air Force will play each team twice and face off against the Sharks four times: twice at home and twice on the road. That makes for only 20 league games for the Falcons.

That disparity is one of the reasons the league standings are set to be determined by point percentage this season. In addition, Atlantic Hockey reasoned that “unfortunately there is no guarantee each team plays a full league schedule,” according to the release. Win percentage was not feasible as “wins are not valued the same” in the 3-on-3 overtime model it now uses.

Air Force is scheduled to travel to AIC, LIU, Bentley, Holy Cross, Niagara and Mercyhurst. That leaves LIU, Army, Sacred Heart, RIT, Robert Morris and Canisius as potential home series.

The Atlantic Hockey Tournament is on the horizon. It’s set to include all 11 teams and be played over three weekends, with the latter stages taking place at Buffalo’s LECOM HarborCenter.

Atlantic Hockey said in the release that it is still working to finalize return-to-play protocols, “including testing, screening, sanitization and other preventative measures.”

Air Force’s schedule will be announced later.

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