When working with young players on play in the Neutral Zone (NZ) it’s important to teach and coach some of the following principles:
- Use the full width and depth of the ice surface to create and set quality passing lanes,
- Players without the puck have a responsibility to get open and NOT be stationary looking at the player with the puck and with their back to the opponent,
- Set quality passing lanes,
- D should try and stay between the dots to protect middle ice,
- Do not bunch up,
- Do not over handle the puck; pass and advance the puck to the player ahead of you as quickly as possible, a fast transition game will be difficult to defend,
- Wingers can skate backwards or forwards to an open spot on the boards for a quick outlet pass (post up) or skate a pattern wide to use the width of the ice,
- The Centre plays a key role in the NZ and must support the puck offensively by setting quality passing lanes and timing is critical to gauge speed through the zone to support the puck,
- The Centre must NOT be stationary with his/her back to the opponent facing the puck. The Centre should skate a pattern with well executed timing of speed and acceleration when setting the passing lane,
- Support the D pair by getting open with a sense of urgency,
- You do not need set plays, just open up the ice and create separation from coverage and use speed through the zone with the full width and depth of the zone.
Play Animation Example demonstrates the use of the width and depth of the ice off a face off win. The same principles apply to a regroup in the NZ off a puck turnover when you can’t immediately counter attack. This is a simple example to demonstrate the use of the width and depth of the ice to set passing lanes.