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Odd Man Rushes and Breakaways

Odd-Man Rushes and Breakaways

Excerpt From: Hockey Plays and Strategies

Dumping the puck into the zone is an effective strategy, but the more exciting transition play- and the one that usually results in a scoring chance – involves the defensive team getting the puck in the neutral zone and making a penetrating pass to one of the forwards that results in an odd-man rush or breakaway (figure 2.6). There are two key aspects of this counter play:

1. The defenseman recognizes the option quickly

2. The forward skates into a stretch area with timing and speed.

The stretch area is an open space as far away from the puck carrier as a skater can go without going offside.

Figure 2. 6 Making a penetrating pass for an odd-man rush or breakaway.

Sometimes the forward off the puck can get in behind the defense and look for that breakaway pass (figure 2.7). This option will be available more often against teams that pinch up in the neutral zone with their defense. Forwards can look for that high middle area between the opposing defensemen to open up. When his teammate is ready to pass he should move to that area quickly with good timing. Even if the pass isn’t made, having the forward available will pull back the opposing defensemen and open up other areas. Now that the red line has been removed for offside passes, it is a good strategy to have one forward stretch in all counter situations.

Figure 2.7 Getting open behind the Ds for a breakaway pass.

The other factor to consider when executing neutral zone counters is involving the defense in the attack, in most North America leagues it is very difficult to generate offense, and that is why coaches should look for ways to get their defense involved. It doesn’t have to be all the time, but it is a strategy that your team must practice and use according to your need to generate more scoring opportunities. Relying only on the forwards to score limits a team’s ability to be a dangerous offensive unit.

There are several advantages to activating your defensemen through the neutral zone:

  • It gives you one more passing option.
  • It provides the defensive team with one more player to cover, often confusing their defensive system.
  • It prepares the attack to have a late or mid-ice threat from the defense. If the defensemen wait too long to join the attack, they won’t be a factor in the offensive zone.
  • Having a defenseman in the play often backs off the opposing defense, therefore giving the puck carrier more time to skate or make a decision. It is important to note that defensemen cannot jump indiscriminately into an attack. The decision to activate must always be based on the quality of puck possession. If the puck carrier has good possession, then the defenseman can move to become an option; if not, he should stay back.

Here are three ways that defensemen can activate on counters.



In this situation, the defenseman sees the pass being made on the strong side and jumps up the back side to look for a pass or enter the zone as a late option (figure 2.8). When seeing D2 activate, D1 must move to a mid-ice position in case of a breakdown.

Figure 2.8



Here the defenseman recognizes after he passes up the strong side that the forward will need an option right away, so he moves into the opening for a potential inside play (figure 2.9). When seeing D1 activate, D2 must stay in mid-ice and behind the play.

Figure 2.9



When the center gets the puck low, the opposite D can move in through mid-ice and create a close support option for the puck carrier (figure 2.10). D2 remains back and in mid0ice in case of a turnover.

Figure 2.10

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