The 3 things every winger must know about the face-off circle
Face-offs occur so many times in a game that it’s easy to stop thinking about what we do in the face-off circle, especially if you’re not the one taking the draw. But paying close attention to your options after the referee drops the puck can make a big difference in your team game.
Here are three things that wingers should watch for in the face-off circle.
1. Where Your Center Sends the Puck
In most situations, centers will try to draw the puck backwards to their defensemen so that your team gains possession of the puck, but that’s not always the case. Depending on your center’s style, strategy, and skill level, they might have a habit of sending it somewhere else.
Watch what they do—or better yet, ask them what their plan is—so you can be ready to support them when the puck hits the ice. Their strategy will often depend on who they’re facing off against. If they’re not confident that they’ll win the draw cleanly, someone should be ready to rush in after a loose puck.
2. What Your Defense Does When They Take Possession
If your center draws it back to the defense, wingers should also be prepared for what happens next. Did the puck go to the left or right D? If you’re in your defensive zone, are they likely to ring the puck around the boards to a winger to start a break out? In the offensive zone, are they looking for a D-to-D pass or will they chip the puck to the corner for a winger to chase? Or will they take a shot, creating an opportunity for a forward to pick up a rebound?
Talking to your D about how they like to handle different scenarios will help everyone get on the same page.
3. Who to Cover If Your Center Loses the Draw
Even the best centers lose draws, and everyone needs to know their role if your team doesn’t win possession after a face-off. This is important on both ends of the ice. Losing possession in your defensive zone can result in your opponent getting a direct scoring chance; losing the draw in the offensive zone can lead to a breakaway for your opponent—unless everyone is ready. As a winger, you need to know what to do if your opponent gets the puck.
There are many strategies for face-offs, but they all have one thing in common: the strategy works best when everyone knows what their job is, based on where the puck goes.
What else do you look for at the face-off circle? Let us know in the comments below!
Published with permission of CARHA Hockey.