Coach Nielsen's Ice Hockey Drills

Building Puck Support Concepts

Let’s discuss one of the most important skills you can perform early in the season to quickly
(and consistently) help put your team on top. It’s called puck support.

Puck support is your team’s 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 carrier’s
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

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
When one of your teammates has the puck, it is generally the responsibility
of at least one defenseman and one forward, as supporting players, to get open
for a pass. Supporting players should maneuver themselves into an open position
to create options for the puck carrier, and should base their movements on the
puck carrier, the defenders, and the open playing surface available. An example
of poor support by a puck carrier’s teammates is shown in Figure 1 while good
puck support is shown in Figure 2.

Figure 1 & 2

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

Figure 3

Clear the Way

The second way support players can help the puck carrier (and the team) is to
maneuver so that the puck carrier has room to skate with the puck. This involves
players spreading out and away from the puck carrier, creating space for that

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 opponent’s 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.

Figure 4

Support the Shot

Supporting the puck carrier can turn into supporting a shot, if the puck carrier
decides to shoot. When in the offensive zone, support players have to be prepared
for a shot (and a rebound) at any time. Two important factors are positioning
and quickness. Proper positioning for a shot means getting into a location near
the slot for a screen, deflection or rebound.

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.

Filed under: coaching, Offense, Systems, , , ,

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