Behind The Bench
Puck support is your teamís ability to maintain control of the puck while moving it into a scoring opportunity. Puck support has both individual and team components. From a team perspective, it requires a collective effort to move the puck into your offensive zone and into a scoring position. From an individual perspective, it requires each non-puck-carrying player (supporting) 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 on the puck carrier, and adjust his or her position in relation to the puck carrier. Positioning of support 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 to allow space for the puck carrier to skate, 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
Notice in Figure 1 that all offensive support players (circled) are covered, while in Figure 2, LD and RF have moved enough to become passing options for LF and can provide the offensive team time and space to maintain puck control until a scoring opportunity is created. In tight quarters, a give-and-go play works well, providing the puck carrier an opportunity to quickly get past a defender.
If an opponent is close to the puck carrier, a supporting teammate can cross in the path of a defender (employing a legal screen or pick). 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. Figure 3 shows an example of a pick, set by LF on the opponentís center (XC). This creates some open space for the offensive center (C) to skate with the puck to the outside of the defenseman and into the offensive zone.
If a defenseman is shooting (as shown in Figure 4), then the three forwards can position themselves to get a rebound, whether it comes out to the center or off to one of the forwards. 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.
This first appeared in the 11/1997 issue of Hockey