The purpose of deploying a forechecking system is to regain puck possession. Hockey is a Possession Game and that fact should never be lost on players. Whether you’re forechecking in the offensive zone or the neutral zone, the objective is to regain puck possession. Regardless of the defensive structure or system deployed the objective never changes, regain puck possession.There are lots of different structures and systems in the game to forecheck but what matters the most is making sure players understand the style of game you want to play and that the players adhere to the guiding principles of play. Keep it simple. Hockey sense makes sense.
Key Principles of the Forecheck
- Speed and Physicality – Defenders must be able to match the speed of their opponent. Defenders must be able to separate the Puck Carrier from the puck and be able to win puck recovery battles on the wall.
- Protect Middle Ice (Between the Dots) – Defenders must protect middle ice (between the dots) and exercise inside out control checking. The puck must be forced outside the dots to the wall. The shortest distance to your net is between the dots so defend middle ice. Forwards and Defensemen must utilize proper angling fundamentals when forcing the play outside the dots to the wall.
- Pressure the Puck – Defenders must apply pressure on the puck at all times. The objective is to regain puck possession so as a group apply pressure on the puck at all times to eliminate the opponent’s time & space with the puck.
- Spacing – Critical to defending is the ability to “Arrive On Time” to support the puck defensively and apply pressure on the puck, wherever the puck goes on the ice surface. The spacing between players defending is important to be able to support the ability to defend. Defensemen and forwards must control their gaps so that they can arrive on time individually and as a group to defend.
- Defend in Layers – Defenders must support each other as a group to achieve the task at hand. The offensive team will be forced to relocate (move) the puck so it’s imperative the defending group spaces themselves to eliminate their opponent’s ability to support the puck offensively. Should the Puck Carrier escape a defender there must be 2nd and 3rd levels of defensive puck support to pressure the puck and defend.
- Eliminate the Carry Option – The Puck Carrier must be forced to pass the puck. As a group eliminate the opponent’s ability to carry the puck North-South – it isn’t an option. Key to forcing a puck turnover is not allowing the opponent the ability to carry the puck while removing passing lane options.
- Contract & Expand the Ice Surface as a Group – Collapse and expand the ice as a group to force a puck turnover and recover the puck. The group should outnumber defensively to support the puck & create the player advantage when possible.
- Read off Each Other and the Opponent – Support the puck defensively you must read & react to the situation. The defending group’s structure changes based on the situation. Focus efforts on creating a puck turnover and chance to regain puck possession.
- Take Away Time & Space – Defenders must take away the opponent’s ice and time in possession of the puck to make a good play with the puck.
- Take Away Puck Support – Defenders must take away passing lanes; sticks and bodies must obstruct passing lanes.
- Be Tough to Play Against – Hunt the puck and be strong on pucks to regain possession.
- Counter attack as a Group – On recovery of the puck counter attack quickly before the opponent is in position to defend.
Video Clip – BRUINS Neutral Zone 2-1-2 Forecheck Principles
- Pressure the puck,
- Take away puck support by blocking passing lanes,
- Protect middle ice and force the puck to the wall,
- Defend in layers and close gaps,
- Counter attack quickly on regaining possession.
Keep it Simple
We forecheck to regain puck possession. Defenders should use defensive principles to guide them in getting the puck back.