Where’s The Space?

[ posted by Kim on 19th of October, 2017 ]

If you want to score more goals, you need to generate quality scoring chances off the rush. And in order to generate more chances off the rush, you need to be able to read whether the open space is IN FRONT of the defenders or BEHIND the defenders.

I created a quick video for you below to show two options you can use to attack depending on where the space is.

Here’s a quick overview of how to find and use the space effectively on the attack.


When your opponents play with a tight gap coming back into their zone, the space is behind them.  When the open space is behind the defender, you want to put the puck into that space and recover it quickly.  Some teams might use the traditional dump & chase (I prefer to call it dump & recovery since in this case it’s a choice being made by the attacking team, not an option that we’re being forced into by the defending team). As you saw in the video above, you can also use the boards to your advantage in this situation.  With a indirect pass off the wall that puts the puck behind the defender, we force our opponent’s to have to turn and find the puck in a way that they aren’t as used to as turning to recover a puck that’s dumped in deep.  You can also use a simple little chip pass into the space behind the defenders very effectively when they are tightly gapped-up. Just remember that you need to practice these options (both without and with pressure) quite a bit in practice in order to have a chance of them working in a game. Timing, support and communicate are the keys to making it work – those things only come with lots of repetition.



When your opponents back in off the rush, leaving a big gap between your attackers & their defenders, you want to use that space in front of them to be creative. The goal in this scenario is to cause confusion & chaos for your opponents by crossing in front of them.  In the video example above, the two attackers cross with east-west skating as they enter the attack zone.  The attackers can then make the choice of whether they want to drop the puck off the cross or not. Either way, this forces the defender to make a decision on who is now the most dangerous attacker and who they need to put pressure on to deny a scoring opportunity. This is a much more effective way of attacking off the rush than the traditional attack where both players simple skate in towards the net using north-south skating.  Just like with teaching the attack when the space is behind the defender, you need to practice crossing on entry quite a bit before it will be an effective tool for your team to use when on the rush.  Start with simply teaching the concept of crossing east-west and understanding that the puck carrier has to take the lane closest to the defender in order to make a potential drop effective (as seen in the video clip).


This is just a quick overview of potential options to use on entry into the offensive attack zone. These options must be taught and practiced quite a bit before they’ll be used effectively in a game. Start by forcing your defending players to run a script – dictate whether they’re allowed to back in or step up – and progress to the point where your attackers have to read the play and make a decision about where the open space is off the rush.



Your friend and coach,





Kim McCullough, MSc, YCS
Director & Founder, Total Female Hockey





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