Playing FAST Below the Hash Marks

I watched some summer hockey the other night and the kids were executing a three on three drill below the hash marks. What was missing in the play I watched made me believe the kids didn’t really understand how to tactically play fast, beat coverages and advance the puck to the net.  Here are some keys for you to think about and practice:

  • Triangulate; puck support low, high and middle ice. Always one player high at the Apex of the triangle for defensive and offensive puck support. Once the player at the Apex of the triangle moves down to support the puck, one of the other two MUST assume the vacant position up top.
  • The players without the puck have a responsibility to find open ice and separate from coverage to support the puck offensively. The three on three play I watched was too stationary without enough offensive puck support. Every puck carrier should have two passing options all the time in tight spaces, get open and attack lanes to create open ice.
  • Do not try to make tape to tape passes in tight spaces, chips to open ice or indirect passes off the boards work the best to advance the puck.
  • Don’t over stick handle the puck.
  • Stops and starts, tight turns and change of direction with and without the puck are all important to beat coverage.
  • Practice puck protection with effective use of your body position.
  • It is not a game of one against one when you are playing three against three down low. You must move your feet and separate from coverage. Isolate on a defender and outnumber offensively strong side and try to play two against one, three against two and even three on one if the defenders aren’t manning up or numbering up in coverage.
  • Chip the puck to open ice and maximize the space below the goal line and behind the net.
  • Communicate out there, the puck carrier is under pressure and he/she needs to hear your voice so the puck can be moved into open ice for the second player to pick up the puck and advance the puck out of the corner, from behind the net or the half wall to take the puck to the net.
  • Push the puck through and under the defenders feet, stick and recover on the other side vs stick handling and using a toe drag move. One against one is the easiest play to defend against in hockey so you must create odd man situations offensively.
  • Learn how to deke. Drop your your shoulder (inside or outside) and bring the puck with you to the same side and push the puck through the defenders feet or stick the other direction and recover the puck.
  • You want to avoid loosing puck possession in the middle of the ice between the face off circles and ringette line. A good transition team will hurt you because that is the shortest route to your net back up middle ice.
  • Talk to the guys you are playing with so you are all on the same page tactically. It’s a team game and you can tell which players get it and which players don’t from the lack of communication on the ice and off the ice on the bench. Get on the same page. Coaches are watching and evaluating whether you can play and make a difference.

You cannot play fast down low if you do not practice these tactics and fundamentals. First man without the puck plays the body, second player the puck and triangulate and move your feet to support each other.

Camp is four weeks away. If you are a forward and you can’t dominate down low and out play the defenders you won’t impress. Coaches are looking for players who can score goals, create offence and make a difference. Are you one of those players? Can you control the play down low? If not, you have some key tips to get working on to improve your play, PLAY FAST.

Players cut themselves they don’t get cut by coaches. Remember that!



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