Cycling; Supplement Your Offensive Zone Attack

(Originally submitted as an article by Greg Siller for Hockey Player Magazine -


Attacking in the offensive zone is a team skill designed to score goals; with the intent of maximizing high percentage scoring opportunities. An offensive zone attack is really a two-stage process. The first stage involves moving the puck into the offensive zone. If the initial attack does not produce a goal or at least a good shot on net, and you still have possession of the puck, set up the second stage of the attack. This second stage consists of maintaining the puck in the offensive zone to initiate a scoring opportunity. One tactic that can be effectively used to obtain scoring opportunities is called offensive zone cycling.

Offensive zone cycling is an excellent tactic designed to supplement existing offensive zone tactics and strategies through the use of continuous position exchanging. Position exchanging can occur between two, three, or even all four/five teammates simultaneously (depending on whether you are playing roller or ice hockey). In this article, we will focus on three-player cycling in both the four-player (roller hockey) unit and the five-player (ice hockey) unit. The emphasis of offensive cycling is keeping players in motion. When used properly, the constant motion of the exchanging players does three things:

1.   It creates confusion. Players exchanging positions confuse defenders by continually being in-motion. Defenders do not have a chance to set up against a single attacker due to constantly changing assignments, and this can result in an attacker becoming open.

2.   It creates constant pressure. While the defenders are trying to find a player to cover, the offensive players move in a coordinated pattern with the center of that pattern generally being the net. The offensive players move like hungry sharks, surrounding their victim (in this case the opponent's goaltender), skating and passing the puck until a good scoring opportunity is created.

3.   It buys time. Cycling provides the puck carrier with vacated areas to maneuver in order to maintain puck possession. By creating and using these vacated areas, the offensive team (specifically the puck carrier) buys time until a scoring opportunity develops.

Offensive cycling is generally initiated by the puck carrier. When the puck carrier skates with the puck in one direction (clockwise for example), his teammates will move in that same direction; with each player successively filling the space created by the player ahead in the cycle.

As shown in Figure 1 (4 player unit), the puck carrier (LF) begins skating with the puck in a clockwise direction behind the net. As LF moves, RD fills the space vacated by LF and RF fills the space vacated by RD. In Figure 2 (5 player unit), LF moves with the puck, while RF moves to fill the space vacated by LF and C moves to fill the space vacated by RF. In both cases, the players circle the net with the intent of setting up a scoring opportunity. This may be a pass to an open player in the slot, a pass across the crease to an open player at the corner of the net, or a pass to a point man; each followed by a shot on net. The cycling continues until a scoring opportunity occurs, when the attackers attempt to screen the goaltender, deflect the shot, or get any rebounds that the goaltender gives up.

When working on this particular play during practice, you should begin with no defenders. Once the attacking team has mastered the play with no defenders, introduce two defenders and then all defenders. The coach should ensure that the players movements are coordinated; a key to offensive cycling.

Offensive cycling is a supplemental tactic. If your fundamental offensive attack is not working, supplement it with cycling.


         Figure 2; 3 Player Offensive Cycling;

         5 Player Unit (Ice Hockey)

         Figure 1; 3 Player Offensive Cycling;

         4 Player Unit (Roller Hockey)



























Greg Siller, founder of Pro Learning Systems (, has put his 25 years of ice and roller hockey experience into authoring several hockey articles as well as two highly acclaimed hockey books;

The Hockey Practice Playbook and Roller Hockey: Skills and Strategies for Winning On Wheels.