Puck Support: Individual Contributions for a Team Effort
(Originally submitted as an article by Greg Siller for Roller Hockey Magazine)
Now that you have started your season and have gotten a couple of practices and games under your belt, letís discuss one of the most important skills you can perform early in the season to quickly (and consistently) help put your team on top. Itís called puck support.
Puck support is your teamís ability to maintain control of the puck while advancing it into the offensive zone to create scoring opportunities. Puck support has both individual and team components. From a team perspective, it requires a collective effort from all players to move the puck into your offensive zone and into appropriate scoring locations. From an individual perspective, it requires each non-puck carrying (supporting) player to provide options for the puck carrier.
To be effective in this support role, players must anticipate the puck carrierís intentions, read the defensive pressure being applied to the puck carrier and the offensive team, and adjust his or her positioning in relation to the puck carrier to create effective offensive opportunities. Positioning of supporting players with respect to the puck carrier is important because movement by all players creates an attack that is always more difficult for the opposition to cover.
Three options that each supporting player needs to work on include getting open for a pass, clearing an area on the playing surface to allow space for the puck carrier to skate in, and supporting a shot on net. These three options require supporting players to be able to read, react, and anticipate quickly, both individually and as a team.
For A Pass
When one of your teammates has the puck, it is generally the responsibility of at least one defenseman and one forward, as supporting players, to get open for a pass. Supporting players should maneuver themselves into an open location to create options for the puck carrier, and should base their movements on the puck carrier, the defenders, and the open playing surface available. An example of poor support by a puck carrierís teammates is when the supporting players are standing around, making it very easy for the opponents to cover them. An example of good (effective) puck support is when (at least) two supporting players move away from their coverage and into open space to become passing options for puck carrier and can provide the offensive team with time and space to maintain puck control until a scoring opportunity is created. Even when a supporting player cannot get open directly, a give-and-go play or bank pass off the boards works well.
Clear the Way
The second way supporting players can help the puck carrier (and the team) is to maneuver so that the puck carrier has room to skate with the puck. This involves the supporting players spreading out and away from the puck carrier, creating space for the puck carrier. The opposite can work as well. If an opponent is close to the puck carrier, a supporting teammate can cross in the path of that defender; employing legal interference to create needed space. This will give the puck carrier an added second or two to skate toward an open area and be able to set up a scoring opportunity.
Support the Shot
Supporting the puck carrier can also turn into supporting a shot, if the puck carrier decides to shoot. Supporting players have to be prepared for a shot (and a rebound), when in the offensive zone, at any time. Two factors are important when supporting the shot; positioning and quickness. Proper positioning for a shot means getting into a location in the slot-area for a screen, deflection or a rebound. If a defenseman is shooting, then the forwards can position themselves to get a rebound, whether it comes out to the center or off to one of the forwards on the side. Timing, quickness, and strength to move into position in the slot are essential factors in obtaining rebounds.
By providing the puck carrier with various levels of support (passing, skating, shooting) you can individually contribute for a successful team effort.
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;