A Good Defenseman is worth his/her weight in gold!
Playing defense, (even temporarily as a Forward) is a highly responsible task,
and defensemen must be very intelligent individuals. Their number one job is
to prevent goals, not score them, and any defensive error they make could
result in a goal against. To avoid these costly errors here are a number of basic
defensive tips to help you prevent goals against and show both defencemen and
forwards how to play the following game situations correctly.
The very first thing a young defenseman must do is to analyze the on coming rush.
S/he must make a quick and correct decision. Is it a 1 on 1, a 2 on 1, or even a
3 on 1 situation, are the wings covered or open? Depending on how you read the
oncoming rush, you will react differently.
If it’s a 1 on 1, (the puck carrier against you) you play the man; don’t even look at the puck.
Just play the man by staying in front of him, preventing him from getting around you or getting
to the net for a shot. If allowed in your division of youth hockey, bodycheck the puckcarrier,
if not allowed, move into the puckcarrier and physically steer him away from the slot area
and towards the boards. (Players should not score from near the boards.)
Try to create a loose puck by bodychecking or stick checking. This will allow your
backcheckers or yourself to regain possession of the puck and start an offensive rush.
Do not grab or hold the puckcarrier with your free hand or you will get a penalty,
just try to angle/steer him from the center ice area towards the boards.
If he puts the puck between your legs let it go, but still play the man and prevent
him from regaining it.
If it’s a 2 on 2 situation, play it as a 1 on 1 situation with your defence partner.
Each of you take a man and stay with them. Do not try to help your partner by going
for the big bodycheck hit and leave your man unattended as you could give up a breakaway.
Each of you stay with and cover your man. If they criss-cross take the man crossing over
into your lane and your partner takes the other player.
If it’s a 2 on 1, or a 3 on 1 situation, (2 or 3 opposing players against you) you play the puck.
Don’t even think of bodychecking as you will only take yourself out of the play and allow them to
get to the net for a quality shot. Stay in the middle between the 2 or 3 players and use your active
stick to deflect or intercept any across ice passes. Your goalie must always play the puckcarrier.
Your job is to try to force the puckcarrier to a bad-shooting angle, outside the slot area, while still
retaining your position between the opposing players protecting the slot area for any passes back
to them. If you bodycheck the puck carrier you will get caught out of position and he could flip the
puck over to the open player(s) and they have a breakaway and could easily score a goal.
Corner work- the opposition is likely to dump the puck into a corner. 1 defenseman must go into
the corner and try to check the puck carrier. His partner must get back quickly and covered the
open man in front of the net.
Timing is very important here as defencemen take turns moving from the corner to the front of the net
and from the front to the opposite corner with the movement of the puck. If allowed, the defenceman
should bodycheck the puckcarrier in the corner. Approach him on an angle not coming straight at him
or he could stickhandle around you. Be aggressive and finish the check.
If not allowed to bodycheck, stick check (sweep or poke) the puck off his stick to create a loose puck.
Your closest backchecker should pick up any loose puck and lead a rush out of your end zone.
Net coverage- with today’s rules, covering opposing players in front of your net will be a challenge.
Cover them at all times but you cannot tie them up or knock them down until the puck arrives.
Timing is crucial. Try to control their stick and don’t let them get to any rebounds.
Take a good body position by being close to the potential receiver staying between him and
the puck if the puck is in the corner and stay behind him if the puck is on the point.
You should be close enough so you can put your stick between his legs to know where he is,
but do not cork screw him with your stick and trip him or a penalty will be called.
Stay close to him so you can intercept or deflect any pass made to the receiver or lift his stick.
S/he is the one most likely to score a goal not the player in the corner with the puck. Lifting his
stick or bodychecking when the puck arrives is considered legal and you should not get a penalty.
However, cross-checking someone in the back, knocking them down before the puck arrives or
holding them or their stick with your free hand will certainly draw a penalty.
Your defense partner should go into the corner to check the puckcarrier. If he is late arriving,
you must play it as a 2 on 1 situation and when he arrives it’s played as a 1on1 situation for each
of you. He in the corner fighting for the puck and you covering the open man in front of the net.
Do not go rushing into the corner and leave an opposing player uncovered in front of the net
unless there is a loose puck and you are 100% sure you can retrieve it.
Communication - between defense partners is critical. Let your partner know what you are doing.
“ I’ve got the man in the corner, you take the man out front.” This verbal communication will help
you play your position correctly and not have 2 defensemen going to the same player, as this
will always leave someone uncovered for a potential pass and a possible goal against.
If you retrieve a loose puck in the corner, or anywhere else on the ice, try to pass the puck quickly
up to your open forward with an accurate outlet pass. This will trap the opposition forwards deep in
your end zone and lead to an odd man rush and possibly a quality scoring opportunity for your team.