Excerpt From: Hockey Plays and Strategies
In this system, the two defensemen work with one forward (usually the center) to cover down low, while the wingers cover the slot and higher areas(figure 9.2). Listed here are the key areas of defensive zone coverage, including teaching points for coaches. This should form a basis for teaching your players how to play in your own zone without the puck. It can also be used as a framework for developing your defensive zone drills. While in the defensive zone, all players should have an “active stick,” meaning the stick is on the ice and it is moving. This takes away shooting lanes and leads to turnovers and transition opportunities.
Figure 9.2 In the 2-3 system the two defensemen work with one forward to cover down low, while the wingers cover the slot and higher areas.
PLAYING LOW THREE ON THREE
D1, F1, and D2 work together and play the three low zones (hit zone, support zone, and net zone). The first forward back assumes the position of F1 (figure 9.3). Most of the time you want your center in this position (assuming he is the better of the three forwards in defensive play), so an exchange may be made when appropriate.
Figure 9.3 Low zone positioning for D1, F1, and D2
With the new interpretation of the rules at the NHL and amateur levels, body position means everything. Players are less able to create interference or hold up players, so early defensive positioning is critical.
In this area, the first defensive player quickly closes on the puck carrier and makes contact with the opponent’s body (figure 9.4). Show patience if the puck carrier has clear possession before you can get there. If you see the opposing player’s number, then close quickly but be careful of hitting from behind; if you see the opposing player’s logo, then contain. By containing the defensive player holds his position briefly then cautiously goes at the puck carrier. Containing means keeping the puck carrier in a set space by holding inside position and not letting him get to the net.
Figure 9.4 The hit zone, support zone, and net zone.
Once the puck is moved or he loses possession, stay with your check (do not hook) until that player is no longer a passing option. Now release that player and move into one of the other zones. The desired goal is for all defending players to keep their positioning between the opposing players and the goal you are defending.
In this zone (figure 9.4), the defensive player is aware of both the puck carrier and the closest passing option. Make sure the puck carrier cannot walk to the net if the first player get beaten or falls down, and be ready to take away the opponent’s closest passing option. Give yourself some space to react to the movement of players and the puck. At all times, try to stay above the goal line in support coverage. Because not many goals are scored by opposing teams from behind the goal line, your defensive positioning should not have you rushing into this area.
One player, usually a D, must always be in this zone (figure 9.4). Be aware of the third offensive player, and play halfway to any overload shooters (the offensive player on the half of the ice where the puck is). If there are any breakdowns, be patient and don’t leave this area unless replaced by a teammate. Keep your stick on the ice. Stay out of the blue crease area, allowing the goaltender to have free movement.
STRONG-SIDE TOP ZONE
F2 holds inside position at the top of the slot (figure 9.5). F2 must be ready to slide out tighter to his point if the puck carrier has the ability to pass there or cover him tight if he comes into the slot. When players cycle up high out of the corner, F2 must hold the top of the circle and deny inside access. Once a pass is made out to the point, F2 must approach the defenseman in the shooting lane so as to take away a direct shot on net.
Figure 9.5 F2 covers the strong-side top zone, while F3 covers the back-side slot.
BACK-SIDE SLOT COVERAGE
F3 slides down lower on the back side (figure 9.5). If the net D is caught out of position, F3 will protect the low slot. Be aware of the back-side point sliding in. If F3 loses sight of where the backside defenseman is then he will have an opportunity to move into a dangerous scoring area for a wide pass outside the vision of the goaltender. F3 must always have his head on a swivel.
Continue Reading: Low Zone Collapse