Defend the Neutral Zone

Defend Entrance Into Your Zone – Play The Right GAPS

Defence of the Neutral Zone – Neutral Zone Forechecking 

The neutral zone is an important area of the ice surface to be coached to improve a team’s offensive game and defensive game. In the clip below you see a poorly executed Neutral Zone Regroup by the offensive team and a well executed Neutral Zone Forecheck (Defence) to regain puck possession and control, counter attack and score against the opponent.

Regroup Execution Mistakes

  • Two players in the defensive zone take themselves out of the regroup by skating below the puck and by not setting quality passing lanes for the puck carrier.
  • Strong side F is stationary at the red line and fails to set a quality passing lane option.
  • Weak side F is stationary at the red line and fails to set a quality passing lane option.
  • Puck carrier forces/rushes his pass which is intercepted by a forechecker blocking the passing lane and initiates a counter attack on recovery of the puck.

Neutral Zone Forechecking Keys

  • Pressure at the puck with inside out control protecting middle ice by F1
  • F1 depth and approach angle on the forecheck takes away the weak side passing option of the puck carrier and forces or pushes the play outside the dots LEFT.
  • Effective Angling with speed & physicality (inside out control) protecting middle ice (between the dots).
  • F2 depth and approach angle (level 2) on the forecheck takes away middle ice and blocks the cross ice pass option.
  • F3 locks down on the opponent’s strong side Winger (level 3) to remove a passing lane option.
  • D Pairing plays a tight GAP to support the forecheckers and counter attack on the recovery.
  • The clip below is an excellent example of a team forechecking with a purpose. Clear evidence of strategy in the tactical play by the depth and approach angles of the forecheckers and the defensemen coming up to play a tight gap.

Good Reasons for Defending the Neutral Zone

  1. Preventing your opponent from entering and exiting the neutral zone is an important tactical advantage because it reduces the opponent’s Attack Rush ability to score off the rush and set up in your own end of the rink.
  2. Provides an excellent opportunity to create puck turnovers (forced and unforced) with an effective forecheck that takes away middle ice (between the dots). Puck turnovers in the neutral zone provide scoring opportunities when a team can effectively transition from defence to offence.
  3. Creates the ability to regain puck possession and control and play more with the puck than without the puck.

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