Winning Your One-On-One Battles
(Originally submitted as an article by Greg Siller for Hockey Player Magazine - www.hockeyplayer.com)
During the course of any ice or roller hockey game, you will see many one-on-one battles; those confrontations in which one player (either with or without the puck) is trying to defeat an opponent. In fact during any 45 minute stop-time game, you can expect to see about 500 one-on-one battles! Think about it--that’s about one every 5 seconds! One-on-one battles are the individual contributions toward the team game and help make hockey the exciting game that it is.
Where do these battles occur? The answer to that question is everywhere on the playing surface. They can occur during face-offs, breakouts, after a shot, and during forechecks.
What does it take to win these one-on-one battles? You have got to know what needs to be done and when to do it. There are two overall one-on-one strategies that you should use when you want to defeat your opponent; one when your team is on offense and the other when your team is on defense.
When your team is on offense (your team has possession of the puck), your strategy should be to move the puck into your offensive zone and setup a scoring opportunity. During the course of moving the puck into (and around) your offensive zone, the defensive players will be trying to get the puck away from you and your teammates. To win the offensive one-on-one battles, you need to ensure that you are good at three individual offensive skills: protecting the puck, stickhandling, and passing.
Protecting the puck means using your body, stick, the net, or a teammate to keep defenders away from the puck. This is done by positioning the puck away from a defender so that it is difficult for that player to gain control of it and using your movement to create time and space.
Stickhandling allows you to skate with the puck and move it around
the playing surface. When stickhandling, you will use some puck protection
techniques as well as your speed and agility to win the one-on-one battles.
To be effective, you’ve got to keep your head up most of the time so that you can see what opportunities you have and what opponents are near you.
Passing is an excellent way to defeat an opponent. Two passing techniques designed to win the on-on-one battles are the give-and-go pass (upper portion of Figure 1) and the bank pass to yourself (lower portion of Figure 1), in which you pass the puck off the boards, skate around the defender, and then pick up the puck after you have defeated the opponent.
When your team does not have possession of the puck, your only role is to regain control of it. To do this, you need to cover your opponents and force the puck carrier to get rid of the puck. To win defensive one-on-one battles, you must be good at three individual defensive skills: stick-checking, playing the body, and covering the passing lanes.
Stick-checking is a technique used to knock the puck off an opponent’s stick or keep that opponent from gaining control of a pass. Two techniques are the sweep/poke check and the stick lift.
Playing the body, whether you play in a checking or non-checking program, provides you with the opportunity to control the movement of the puck carrier and force him/her to get rid of the puck. No matter where the puck carrier is, you should try to force that player toward the boards or a teammate. Doing this will force the puck carrier to stop, retreat, try and get by you, pass or dump the puck. If that player passes or dumps the puck, or tries to get by you, you have an opportunity to gain control of the puck. If that player stops or retreats, you have, at least, slowed the offensive attack.
Covering the passing lanes prohibits the offensive team from moving the puck anywhere they want to. Your responsibility is to maintain a position between the puck carrier and the player that you are defending against (as shown by the “O” players in Figure 2). This can be a difficult task, but if you are successful, it will eventually frustrate your opponents and force them into making bad plays (the ones that allow you to regain control of the puck).
To make sure that you are effectively contributing to your share of the 500 one-on-one battles each game, learn and improve on your three individual offensive and defensive skills and watch your battles improve.
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;