A few years ago, I had the opportunity to watch two of the best women’s college hockey teams in the States – University of Wisconsin and the University of Minnesota-Duluth – face-off against each other in a double-header. At the time, both teams were ranked #1 and #2 in the country. The games were amazing – the level of speed, skill and strength shown
by the players was extremely impressive and the high degree of execution
was phenomenal. In fact, when someone made a pass that was slightly
less than perfect or missed a back-check, it stuck out like a sore thumb.
For these two games, I sat up at the top of the stands with the simple goal
of figuring out what these players and teams were doing that really separated them from the level of play I watch on a daily basis, which ranges from 12U or peewee all the way up to the under 19 and junior level.
So to help you get focused and get ready for your next big game,
here is the list of the “7 Things That All Players Must Work On” that
I created after watching these two amazing teams play.
The first thing that struck me is how much the players communicated with each other out on the ice. Most of the time when I watch games, the players are virtually silent out on the ice. During these college games, the players called for every pass, and the goalies helped the defense out on the in-zone.
Talking out on the ice makes everyone’s job easier and can often be intimidating to the other team. It is quite simply the easiest way you can help your team get to the next level of performance.
2. Stick On The Ice:
This is another big one that I am constantly reminding my players about.
Not only did these elite players have their stick on the ice right when they
knew the pass or shot was coming, they had it there even earlier. The game was moving so fast that many of the passes would have been missed if the players were holding the stick up by their waist.
3. Follow Shots To The Net:
Quite often when I am watching girls’ games, players will take a shot and then fade off to the corner or end up below the goal-line afterwards. These women took their shots, crashed the net with speed and stopped right in the crease. They didn’t stand around and stare at their shot – they kept their feet moving and went to the net. And it wasn’t just the shooter who drove the net hard – typically there were 2 other players crashing the net on every shot taken as well looking for rebounds and easy tap-in goals.
4. Feet Always Moving Along Boards:
Whether it was a winger opening up on the boards on the breakout or a defensemen battling for the puck along the wall, these elite players always kept their feet moving. Standing still or gliding along the boards really only ever works in the power-play – most of the time you want to keep your feet moving to gain speed, avoid a check or avoid getting a penalty. These players were accelerating into every single pass and moving their feet through every single battle.
5. Lateral Movement On The Attack:
I am constantly reinforcing the concept of moving laterally in the neutral zone
and offensive zone with my forwards. While being fast in a straight line is
important, it’s your ability to move laterally with speed and power that will
allow you to separate yourself from your check and get more opportunities to score. This is true whether you are carrying the puck or supporting the puck carrier. These players were constantly skating on the diagonal, looking for shorter passes
and creating time and space with their lateral movement.
6. Defense Get Their Feet Moving With Puck:
This is another one that I am constantly reminding my defensemen about.
The defense in these women’s game always had their feet moving up ice when they made a pass. Young players often over-think their decisions on defense and stop their feet moving before making a pass. This leaves them no opportunity to recover quickly if the pass is off target. Remember – it is always easier to pass to a moving target when you are moving as well.
7. Patience With The Puck:
This was the one thing that really separated these elite players from the
younger players I watch everyday. When they had the puck on their stick,
they never panicked. They kept their head up and their feet moving and
looked for their best option, even when they were under intense pressure. This is a skill that all players who aspire to get to the next level much cultivate. These things may be small and simple – but it’s the attention you give to the
little details that makes the biggest difference, whether at your current level
or up at the next level.
Work Hard. Dream BIG.
Your friend and coach,
PS – Please pass this email along to any player, parent or coach that you
think might benefit from the information.
Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS
Director, Total Female Hockey
Girls’ Hockey Director, PEAC School For Elite Athletes