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Basic Neutral Zone Regroup Options

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Systems
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The ability for a team to properly execute a neutral zone regroup can mean the difference between generating a scoring opportunity and giving up a scoring opportunity.  In this video, we cover four basic neutral zone regroup tactics to help your team transition from the neutral zone to the offensive zone.

View the Drill Page for these Neutral Zone Regroup Options

Option #1: Post Up – Wings post up just inside the blue line along the wall for quick outlet options. Center curls strong-side for a secondary pass.  This is a good option for less experienced teams, or teams with defensemen who don’t have strong puck-movement skills and ice vision.

Option #2: Double Curl – The strong-side wing curls to the middle of the ice while the center curls toward the strong-side wall. The weak-side winger can post up for a tertiary outlet option.  This option creates more offensive movement through the neutral zone, so defensemen need to have solid passing abilities, as they’re attempting to hit a cutting player instead of one at a stand-still.

Option #3: Weak-Side Stretch – The strong-side wing posts-up, center curls strong-side. The weak-side wing starts up ice, then cuts back across the far blue line looking for a stretch pass outlet.  This option requires defensemen with strong ice vision and passing abilities.

Option #4: Strong-Side Stretch – The weak-side wing posts-up, center curls strong-side.  The strong-side wing starts up ice, then cuts back across the far blue line looking for a stretch pass outlet.  This option requires defensemen with strong ice vision and passing abilities.


Penalty Kill Handout (User Submission)

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Systems
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Harry from Kingston was kind enough to share a recent penalty killing handout he distributed to his Peewee team.  Click the link below to download the PDF version of his handout:

Download Harry from Kingston’s PK Handout (PDF)


Simple Penalty Kill Forecheck

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Systems
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Killing off a penalty can be one of the most critical turning points of a game.  Your team finally ices the puck, and you get a fresh set of legs on the ice to go pressure the opposing team while they’re setting up their breakout….now what?  If you’re dealing with older players, it is important your players know their responsibilities and the lanes they’re defending.

Click to continue…


2-1-2 Forecheck

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Systems
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Forechecking efficiently is a must for any successful team today.  Without an organized structure for attacking and regaining control of the puck, the team is vulnerable to quick breakouts, and will assuredly not be in proper position to play defense when the other team begins heading up ice.

Before getting into the specifics of the 2-1-2 forecheck system, it is important to understand what type of play a forecheck is exactly.  Many coaches believe the act of forechecking is an offensive tactic.  I don’t believe this is an accurate description.  While the forechecking described here outlines the pressure in the offensive zone, the key lies in the possession of the puck.  I believe there are only three distinct scenarios regarding possession: 1) offense, 2) defense, 3) transition.  In order for a player to be on “offense”, his/her team MUST have control of the puck.  If the team does not have control of the puck, they are either in the transition phase or defense stage.  The transition stage occurs during turn-overs while players shift from defense mode to offense mode (or vice-versa).  A good rule of thumb is: if you don’t have possession of the puck, you’re playing defense.

An offensive zone forechecking system is a defensive tactic to regain control of the puck.  A well executed forechecking system will allow players to make quick transitions from defense to offense to create scoring opportunities.  Most often an offensive zone forecheck will occur when the puck is dumped in.  With that understanding of how to approach the pressure, let’s take a look at the 2-1-2.

The 2-1-2 is an aggressive-style forechecking system designed to place pressure on the puck carrier.  Its name comes from the pressure-style being used where the first two players aggressively pursue the puck, one player stays slightly higher for middle support, and the defense hold their regular positions on the blue line.  Here is a diagram of a basic 2-1-2 setup:

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In this basic scenario, players 1 & 2 (in blue) are the first two to the puck, player 3 remains in the middle high-slot, and the defense (players 4 & 5) play their typical point positions.  Below is an outline of the each forechecking player’s responsibility:

Player 1:  The first player on the puck carrier should take the body (age permitting) to create a separation of the puck and the defending player.  This player must have an active stick and actively take away passing lanes while pursuing the puck carrier.

Player 2: The second player should ensure there is no D-to-D pass option for the puck carrier.  Once player 1 has successfully taken the body and separated the defending player from the puck, player 2 should look to pick up the loose puck.

Note: Player 1 can also share responsibility in eliminating the D-to-D outlet pass option depending on where he/she is coming from on the ice.  With a 2-1-2 forecheck, the idea is to force the play to one side of the ice and not allow puck movement to the weak-side.

Player 3: Player 3 plays a read-and-support role, staying in the middle of the ice in the high-slot.  If defensive player 2 is able to make a pass to defensive player 4, player 3 would pressure player 4 to create a turn-over.  If the puck is broken out, player 3 is in good position to backcheck.

Players 4 & 5:  The defensemen should play the point play as normal, reading the play as the defending player controls the puck and attacking players are attempting to force the play to one side of the ice.

The 2-1-2 system is great to run when the opposing team has defensemen who are confident in skating the puck up the ice.  Applying this type of pressure will take away their time and space to handle the puck.  It also works well when opposing teams have slow defenders.  Slow defensemen can be exploited by applying aggressive pressure.  It is critical to have the first two players keep their feet moving through the entire process.  When forecheckers hesitate using a 2-1-2, a good defense pair on the opposing team will use the extra second or two to find an outlet pass – usually D-to-D.  Skate hard all the way through the forecheck.

This article outlines one way to apply pressure, there are countless minor differences between implementations.  Below are some animations to show examples of ways to apply this forecheck and rotations if the other team completes a breakout pass.

Basic 2-1-2 Forecheck w/ Rotation

Basic 2-1-2 Forecheck w/ Rotation

2-1-2 Forecheck - Puck Behind the Net

2-1-2 Forecheck – Puck Behind the Net

2-1-2 Cross-Corner Dump-In w/ Wrap Around

2-1-2 Cross-Corner Dump-In w/ Wrap Around


Box Plus One – D-Zone Coverage

Posted by Kevin - Filed under: Hockey Systems
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There have been a lot of questions popping up on the Message Board regarding defensive zone coverage.  Coaches have several different options when deciding on a defensive zone coverage strategy/system.  The “Box Plus One” system has become increasingly popular because of its ability to force the play to the outside of the ice.  The primary purpose of any d-zone coverage is to minimize the number of opportunities from the “home base” area of the rink (see diagram below) and force the play into the “soft” areas of the ice.  Soft areas are parts of the ice where far fewer goals are scored.

Box Plus One - Hockey Defensive Zone Coverage

Red is "Home Base", Blue is "Soft Area"

In order to effectively run the Box Plus One, coaches must have a good grasp of the area each player is responsible to cover.  Starting with the puck in the corner, the diagram below shows basic areas of responsibility.

Box Plus One Responsibilities

The LW is responsible for the general areas shown in light-blue.  RW is responsible for areas shown in tan.  RD is responsible for areas shown in light-green.  LD is responsible for the areas shown in orange.  Both LD and RD are jointly responsible for the area directly in front and behind the net.  The C is jointly responsible (with LD and RD) to cover the entire area of both defensemen’s responsibility.

Along with the basic coverage areas shown in the diagram are arrows indicating which way the player’s feet should be facing during the play.  Too often coaches leave this important concept out of their defensive zone instruction.  The direction a player has his/her feet facing can be the difference between making a play and giving up a goal.  As a rule-of-thumb, players in the defensive zone should not have their feet facing the net.  The should be facing up ice, or no more than parallel to the goal line.  This simple concept allows players to see and read the ice much easier, giving them a better chance of finding their responsibilities.

The diagrams below outline each player’s individual line of sight in the above scenario.  Knowing where to look is crucial in properly executing the coverage.

Left Wing Line of Sight

Left Wing Line of Sight

Right Wing Line of Sight

Right Wing Line of Sight

Right Defense Line of Sight

Right Defense Line of Sight

Center Line of Sight

Center Line of Sight

Left D Line of Sight

Left D Line of Sight

Note: The darker-orange areas in the Left D’s line of sight diagram represent areas LD must constantly be checking.

In order to more fully understand the coverage, a coach must understand the rotations and shifts in responsibility when the puck changes location.  There are three main rotational scenarios.

Scenario #1 – Puck is passed to the point

Box Plus One - Point Pass

In this scenario, each player’s responsibility is highlighted.

RW should attack LD from the inside-out.  This prevents LD from getting a better angle shot and also leaves fewer points of escape by utilizing the blue line and boards.  RW should finish his/her check when pressuring the point.

LW is responsible for the RD, but should remain in the high-slot to help out with loose pucks or anyone who may be open.  If RW pressures LD properly, the pass from LD to RD should not be an option.

RD and C are responsible for staying on the defensive side of their respective player.  Defensive side simply means having your body between the player you’re defending and the net.

LD is responsible for tying up his/her man in front if a shot comes, as well as preventing the player from getting body position on any rebounds.  LD should stay on the defensive side of the opponent at all times.

Scenario #2 – Puck is passed behind the net

Box Plus One - Behind the Net Rotation

Individual player responsibilities are again highlighted along with basic rotation directions.

C should pressure the new puck carrier.  Ideally, C will be able to take the body and pin the puck carrier against the wall creating a turn over.  C should try to force the puck carrier out to one side of the net and not allow cut-backs.  Cut-backs often create coverage confusion and lead to scoring opportunities.

RD remains responsible for the previous puck carrier.  It is crucial RD wins the race back to the front of the net and remains on d-side of his/her player.

LD remains responsible for the opposing player in front of the net.  LD can not allow his/her feet to face the end-boards, as this will allow the opposing forward to get open in front of the net without LD knowing exactly where the opponent is skating.  LD should keep his/her feet facing up ice until the puck carrier reaches the far post, at which point, LD can open facing the sideboards allowing clear vision of both the puck carrier and responsibility in front of the net.

LW remains in the high slot for additional support and remains responsible for the opposing RD.

RW shifts to the high slot for additional support.  RW remains responsible for the opposing LD and should not turn his/her back to the coverage.

Alternate Rotation

Box Plus One - Behind the Net Alternate Rotation

An alternate to the scenario #2 rotation is to allow the LD to pressure the new puck carrier behind the net and have C fill LD’s previous responsibility in front of the net.  This rotation can be useful when the puck carrier has a step or two on the C.  In order for this rotation to work properly, C and LD need to communicate to ensure only one player is pressuring the puck.  LD should not leave until C has picked up the man in front of the net.  If LD leaves too early, the opposing forward will be left open in front of the net until C is able to pick him/her up.

Scenario #3 – Puck is moved to the far corner

Box Plus One - Corner Rotation

In scenarios where the puck shifts from one corner to the other, players must quickly and efficiently rotate to avoid any gaps in coverage.

LD becomes strong-side defenseman and should pressure the puck carrier assuming he/she is closer to the puck than C (as shown in this diagram).

C should rotate to the other side of the net for support – traveling through the front of the net to block passing lanes and cover anyone who may be in the high slot during the rotation.

RD returns to the front of the net.  RD must win the race back to the front.

RW shifts into the high-slot for weak-side support.

LW rotates just above the dot on the far circle, staying in between RD and the net.

Final Tips:

1) Always keep your stick on the ice and in the most dangerous passing lane.  This simple act can prevent countless scoring opportunities.  The most dangerous passing lane is most often the middle of the ice.

2) Proper communication is key.  In a game, there will be times of confusion.  Proper communication amongst the players will allow responsibility shifts without creating gaps in coverage.  Coverage gaps equal scoring opportunities!

3) Be aggressive on the puck carrier.  The more time you give an opponent time to set up and make plays, the more likely it becomes someone will miss a coverage.

4) Centers should be treated like defensemen and be allowed to pursue the puck carrier in the corner if he/she can get there before a defenseman.

5) The first person pressuring the puck should look to take the body and separate the man from the puck.  When separation has occurred, the support player (Center in the diagrams above) should quickly move in to gain possession of the puck.

6) Have your head on a swivel. In the defensive zone, players must consistently look around to identify gaps in coverage (open players).  Players cannot get caught watching the puck and losing track of their responsibility.



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