Beat Their Face-Off (Part 2 of 2)
(Originally submitted as an article by Greg Siller for Hockey Player Magazine - www.HockeyPlayer.com)
Part 1 of this two-part article covers winning face-off techniques in the offensive zone. Part 2 covers the defensive zone. Face-off techniques are used to optimize a teams chance of gaining control of the puck following a face-off. Winning face-offs in the defensive zone forces the opposing team to immediately go on the defensive and allows your team the opportunity to control the puck and eventually move it into the offensive zone for a scoring opportunity.
To win face-offs, centers should master the following points:
1. Never approach a face-off until you check your opponent's alignment, your team's alignment, and your goaltender's readiness. Set up your team before you move into the face-off, not while you're waiting for the puck to be dropped.
2. Position your hands effectively to defeat your opponent. Move your lower hand down on the shaft of the stick for a face-off. This provides maximum strength, lowers your center of gravity, and increases stability. Next, position your skates in the most balanced position, which is wider than shoulder width apart. Use your whole body, not just your arms, during the face-off, in order to control as much of the playing surface as possible.
3. Get a good jump. Watch for the official's hand, not the puck, to get the best possible jump. Play starts as soon as the official releases the puck, not when it hits the playing surface. If you wait until the puck has been dropped, you lose time.
In the defensive zone, the face-off strategy should be built around three points; winning the face-off and gaining control of the puck first, preventing a scoring opportunity by the opponents second, and initiating a breakout play or offensive attack third.
When the face-off is deep in the defensive, players should align themselves using the 3-0-1 positioning (for roller hockey) or the 3-1-1, 4-0-1, or 5-0-0 (for ice hockey). These alignments put the most defensive pressure on the opposing team if they win the face-off and allows your team to control the puck if you win the face-off.
In Figure 1 (3-0-1 alignment), if the center (LF in this case) wins the face-off back to LD, initiate a breakout play. The two forwards (LF and RF) move to their breakout positions (spreading out the play and creating space and options for LD to work with) while LD reads the coverage. LD can skate with the puck or pass it to either LF or RF to initiate the breakout play.
In Figure 2 (3-1-1 alignment), if the center wins the face-off back to LD, C will contain the opposing center, RD will contain the opposing forwards (XRF and XLF), while RF and LF position themselves for a breakout. Once LD makes his initial move, C can release coverage on the opposing center and move to open space to create a passing option for LD.
If your team loses the draw, the second part of the face-off strategy is put in place; prevent a scoring opportunity by breaking up the opponents attack. This is done by forcing the play to the outside of the playing surface and regaining control of the puck.
Figure 1 Roller Alignment Figure 2 Ice Alignment
Figure 1; Roller Alignment Figure 2; Ice Alignment
By practicing your face-off strategy in the defensive zone, you will learn what it takes to master the various techniques. This knowledge can then be applied during a game to improve your winning percentage against any opponent.
Greg Siller, founder of Pro Learning Systems (www.ProLearning.com), has put his 25 years of ice and roller hockey experience into authoring several hockey articles as well as two highly acclaimed hockey books;