Playing the Two-On-One
(Originally submitted as an article by Greg Siller for Hockey Player Magazine - www.hockeyplayer.com)
A two-on-one is an exciting part of any hockey game. In fact, it is one of the cornerstones of hockey. An offensive team strategy should be built around creating this situation and then taking advantage of it. Defensively, a team should react to this situation by utilizing positioning and patience.
On The Attacking Side
From a forwards’ perspective, the two-on-one should be designed to draw the defender out of position. This will create an opportunity to pass the puck across the front of the net to the open forward and catch the goaltender out of position; followed by a quick shot on (and hopefully in the) net. The non puck-carrying player needs to read the puck carriers’ speed and direction and react by getting open, as shown in Figure 1. One of the main reasons that this type of attack fails is due to poor positioning of one or both attackers as they approach the defender, giving the defender a chance to cover both attackers. The attackers should always approach a two-on-one in such a way as to force the defender into making a move that will place the non-puck carrier in an open position from which he can receive a pass and quickly shoot.
If the passing option is not available, a shot on net is a must. Two ways in which to accomplish this are to have the puck carrier put on a burst of speed toward the net, try to cut across the crease, and shoot. The second method, as shown in Figure 2, is to cut across the slot in front of the defender, and execute a screen shot. In both cases, your partner should be looking for any rebounds to put on net.
On The Defending Side
A two-on-one scenario is usually defined as two attackers against one defender; although this is not entirely true. The defensive team must not only rely on the one obvious defender, but also must utilize the goaltender to create a virtual two-on-two scenario. Ensuring that the goaltender is involved and that both the defender and the goaltender are communicating will do a lot toward neutralizing a two-on-one.
A good rule-of-thumb when playing a two-on-one is to have the goaltender play-the-shooter and the defenseman play-the-pass (by blocking the passing lane as shown in Figure 3). This is because a quick pass across the slot would not allow the goaltender enough time to slide across the crease to cover the open net; while an outside shot from the puck carrier can be effectively blocked by the goaltender. The defenseman must be patient and try and force the puck carrier to hold onto the puck until he is out of position and has to take a low percentage shot out of desperation. If the puck carrier tries to move around the defenseman to cut toward the net, the defenseman must then focus on the puck carrier to ensure that he is blocked from skating across the front of the net and does not get a quality shot.
The last thing both the goaltender and defenseman must do is to contain any rebounds. Make sure that any rebounds are covered up or can be cleared if the puck carrier shoots. If you gain control of the puck, begin a counter-attack, clear the puck out of the defensive zone, or freeze it along the boards if nothing else works. Communicate with your goaltender so there is no confusion about loose pucks or possible rebounds.
Take time to practice and perfect the many options associated with a two-on-one scenario and you will take your game to the next level.
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;