Following No. 4 Air Force’s 2-0 win over No. 1 Michigan, Falcons’ coach Frank Serratorre recalled seasons past when there was something lacking from his team. It was a large void, and, until Friday’s matchup with No. 1 Michigan in the opening game of the East Regional, it was impossible to know whether it was properly filled.
Forty-three saves and a 2-0 win over perennial power Wolverines later, junior Andrew Volkening proved that not only was he the man to push the Falcons into legitimacy; he can lead them as far as any goaltender in the nation.
“To use the word incredible again,” Serratore said following the game, “We got incredible goaltending again tonight from Andrew Volkening.”
It didn’t take particularly long for the Wolverines to test Volkening, and they didn’t pause once they started.
In the second minute of the game, Volkening kicked a rebound into the slot where UM center Travis Turnbull corralled it and promptly fired it towards the half-empty net. Volkening slid across the crease and stopped Turnbull’s shot with his blocker before freezing it.
Michigan tested Volkening with more than just point-blank shots from the slot. Midway through the third period, winger Carl Hagelin beat a Falcons’ defender to a puck; just as he arrived, Volkening darted from his crease and sent the puck to the boards.
Of Volkening’s 46 saves, 14 came with UM on the power play. The Wolverines converted on 17.3 percent of their chances this season, but AF’s penalty killers mixed with Volkening’s consistent positional excellence stifled the Wolverines.
“When you try to build a successful team, you start in goal,” Falcons’ center Jacques Lamoureux said. “[Volkening’s] confidence going into every games makes all of us more confident.”
The early stops boosted the Falcons’ confidence, allowing them to take chances offensively against the fiery Michigan offense, which led the CCHA in scoring this season. When sophomore winger Derrick Burnett beat UM goaltender Bryan Hogan at 15:18 of the first period, the Falcons settled into their roles, and Volkening took over.
With 2:35 remaining in regulation, Michigan coach Red Berenson pulled his goaltender Bryan Hogan for an extra skater. The Wolverines controlled the puck the entire time, but even with the extra skater, Volkening kept Air Force’s lead at two. The final Michigan effort came from the right faceoff circle; freshman winger David Wohlberg’s slap shot sailed toward the net and into Volkening’s glove. Wohlberg’s head dropped instantly as he drifted toward the bench.
“I was told a long time ago that, in games like this, the team with the best goalie always wins,” Berenson said after the game.
Friday afternoon, Andrew Volkening was the best goalie, and Air Force was the better team.