When the Fergus Falls Otter boys hockey team takes the ice, there’s one player that’s hard to recognize. He’s got all those pads, the thicker heavier face mask, a really big stick, and he doesn’t get around as much as the other players. But he doesn’t care much about the facial recognition; he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s Andrew MacFarlane, senior goalie for the Otters. He’s wanted to be, and has been, a goalie since the 3rd grade.
How does someone get to be a goalie, what’s the thought process and how does it happen you ask? Well, in Andrew’s case he was a “skater” as goalies call all the other players, his first year in traveling hockey. In his second year, the team’s goalie moved away and players were asked if they were interested. Andrew thought it would be “interesting”, shot his hand up, and he’s been between the posts ever since.
“Dad wasn’t too sure about my choice, but when he saw I was serious he accepted it and went about working with me to help mold me into a goalie”, says Andrew. Chuck MacFarlane had also played high school hockey and was serving as one of the youth coaches for Andrew’s team. “I guess I wanted him to be sure of what he was getting into, so I took him out and pinged a few shots off him,” states Chuck, “and when he said ‘is that all you’ve got, Dad?’, I knew right away he’d be able to handle it” From then on, Andrew has been taking on and rising to the challenge of the best shots his opponents have to offer.
Now in his senior year, Andrew still likes being a goalie. When asked why, he responded, “First of all, the challenge of stopping the toughest shots is fun for me. The second thing is, I feel I can really make a difference in a game. The biggest kick for me is stopping the shots you’re not supposed to and consistently stopping the shots you’re expected to. Finally, the fact that the position is different from the others is sort of fun for me.”
Coming up through the youth ranks and playing in the many weekend tournaments provided some of the fondest memories for Andrew and his parents Chuck and Linda MacFarlane. “We had a close knit group of guys, which we still have today,” says Andrew. “It makes our high school hockey all that more enjoyable.” Chuck and Linda echo that from a parent’s standpoint. “The camaraderie of the kids and parents and the many memories from those weekends together is one of our great enjoyments of life,” they say. His sophomore year, Mac, as his hockey buddies call him, made the high school varsity team and ended up playing in 13 games that year. Remembering his first high school game, MacFarlane commented, “I was excited to play and I remember
it was our team’s first win of the season. There was a lot of pressure as it went to overtime but it was fun!” Says Otter Coach Mike Donaghue, “Mac has the personality trait that fits a goalie. He is
calm, cool, collected, and doesn’t get shaken by giving up a goal.”
Besides crediting Andrew with great technique, Donaghue says, “You can tell that Andrew throws himself mentally into the competition. His mind never waivers on what he has to do.” Coach Donaghue notes Andrew is the first Otter goalie in 12 years that is a three sport athlete (he plays soccer in the fall and golf in the spring) and says Andrew’s multi-sport experiences give him that athletic mentality of stepping up every day to the challenge at hand. Says Donaghue, “His golf team won the section and went to state last spring, and I can just picture Andrew standing over a difficult putt and mentally focusing in on that shot…he’s like that in hockey on every shot on goal he takes.”
Coach Donaghue goes on to say that for a goalie, Andrew is not big, so he has to be technically sound and in the right position. He further states MacFarlane has a strong hockey IQ about what the on-rushing opponent is most likely to do, based on the defenseman’s position. “Andrew really knows the angles and has excellent anticipation. He analyzes the situation very quickly, communicates to his defensemen well, and almost always makes the right choice.”
When asked about the things, as a coach, he likes about Andrew his response was quick, “Number one, he’s such a good person, he does the right things and is respected by all; number two is preparation, his academics are always taken care of, he prepares well for his academics and his sports; and three, he’s both athletic and has mental toughness, a great combo for playing goalie in hockey.” Respect of his teammates is evident in that Andrew was named a captain in all three of his sports for his senior year.
Andrew started almost all the games his junior year and his save percentage increased and goals against average dropped. Andrew joins his coach in stating that the defensemen playing in front of him have a lot to do with goalie saves as they can help cut down on easy angles shot positioning. But MacFarlane has also put the work in to improve every year as a goalie. Each summer for the last four years Andrew has gone to hockey goalie camps. These are camps that have high level college and professional team goalie coaches there for instruction. His experiences culminated last year when he attended two goalie camps in Canada and played against Canadian junior and college level players, typically the best of the best in Canada ages 16 through 22. “The speed was way faster than I’ve seen before and the shots were the hardest and fastest I’ve faced,” remarked MacFarlane. “It was great preparation for me to face the top shooters in our area this year.”
Andrew says he can’t pick a favorite of the three sports he plays. He really enjoys getting into the season for each sport at the time. “Going to the state in golf was probably as excited as I get,” says Andrew, but then when soccer comes around, he says, “It’s fun to be on that field and when that’s done I usually can’t wait to put the pads on for hockey.” He keeps very busy in the summer trying to get a little of each sport in, with soccer once or twice a week, hockey camps and hockey nights a couple times a week, and playing golf several times a week at Pebble Lake Golf Course where he works some hours in the pro shop. “I love the activity of it all, but probably like tubing on the lake with my buddies the most in the summer.”
When asked about college plans, Andrew has visited some but hasn’t made any decisions yet. He would like to consider a sport in college, “Because I don’t want the fun of playing sports throughout the year to end.” However, the route to playing hockey in college is getting tougher each year, with almost all college hockey players now having to spend at least a year or two in junior hockey leagues to get offers from college hockey coaches.
A hockey goalie is the last stop and there’s a lot of pressure with it. Andrew MacFarlane is OK with that. He says he has a short memory after giving up a goal and has learned to get out of the funk of giving up an early goal or two in a game.
You can see it while talking to him, that cool look, the calmness and mental toughness. He knows he’s done as much as he could to prepare for this season, each game, and the tough shots he will face. That preparation helps him keep as cool as…well…ice.