Establish a Forecheck in the Neutral Zone
There are good reasons for a team to establish a strong forecheck in the neutral zone, especially, after a face-off loss in the zone, not limited to the following:
- Puck possession and control matters, the team that wins the puck possession and control game generally wins the hockey game. You’ve lost possession of the puck and you need to execute a plan to regain puck possession & control.
- You should always defend entrance into your own end of the rink (your blue line) aggressively to prevent the opponent from attacking off the rush or setting up an offensive attack in the zone.
- It’s a significant tactical advantage to prevent the opponent from entering and exiting the neutral zone with speed and puck control.
Good teams pressure the puck in the offensive zone with an aggressive forecheck to regain puck possession and control. Why wouldn’t you deploy similar strategy and a tactical approach to regaining puck possession and control in the neutral zone?
Breakdown of the Video Clip Below Reveals:
- Lack of a neutral zone forecheck deployed to put pressure at the puck and push their opponent left or right into an area outside the dots to force a puck turnover opportunity.
- No defence of the blue line & entrance into the defensive zone by the Defensemen.
- The defending forwards don’t pick up their man coverage assignments entering the defensive zone.
Neutral Zone Forecheck
The concept of forechecking in the neutral zone is no different than forechecking in the offensive zone. The goal, push or force the puck left or right into an area of the ice surface outside the dots to create a turnover over the puck. Whatever neutral forecheck structure is deployed, 1-2-2, 2-1-2, or other structure there should be pressure at the puck to force the puck into an area that provides the best opportunity to contest a puck recovery battle situation. Passing lanes and exit lanes should be blocked by the forecheckers.
Neutral Zone Forecheck Keys
- Protect middle ice (between the dots),
- Right structure based on situation,
- Pressure at the puck to force or push the puck left or right to a confined space or area,
- Skating & checking (angling) skills of the defenders,
- Puck recovery battle plan for the confined space,
- Exit play upon recovery of the contested puck,
- Defensemen moving up to close the GAP between the puck and themselves to support the forecheckers,
- Forecheckers taking away passing or exit play options.