One area of the game that is very important but often overlooked is the forecheck. Teams use different systems based on a coaches likes and dislikes, but many coaches just have a “go and get them” attitude to the forechecking system they employ.
Some coaches use the 1-2-2, some the 2-1-2, some will run an aggressive 1-2-2 while others will run a passive 1-2-2. We saw Tampa Bay run a 1-1-3 in last year’s playoffs. We’ve watched the Devils bog down the neutral zone with their 1-2-2 trap for years. Whatever system works for you as a coach based on your teams talent and skating ability is up to you. One problem that many coaches face is how to teach the forechecking system and how to practice it. Sometimes it’s as easy as running 5 on 5 full ice dump and breakout drills to have the players practice your system, but you also need the drills that can break down the skills needed to be an effective forechecker as a player and a team.
One of the aspects of a good forecheck is angling. You can have a super fast skater on your team but if he doesn’t understand proper angling techniques then more times than not he will overrun the play and find himself out of position. Next is what do you do after you angle the opponent properly. Some coaches believe in the stick-hands-elbow-body approach. Some coaches believe that you should attack full speed and try to drive your opponent through the glass. Whatever your approach is, you still need some drills to work on individual and team skills to help your players become better forecheckers.
With the help of some college coaches I work with we’ve put together a few drills that you can use to help your players become better forecheckers. These drills are designed to work on angling a player off to the wall while at the same time limiting his ability to cut back to the middle lane. Another works on teaching your players to keep their sticks in the passing lanes and not using it to slow down a faster skater. As we all know as soon as the stick comes up to the opponents waist, the official is likely to call hooking or obstruction type of penalties. We finish off with a few team oriented drills to work on what the first forechecker does and how the offense can read and react to what he does. Finally a five man drill that works on the first forward forcing the play and the second forward supporting the forecheck.
We hope that this set of drills gives you the groundwork to build from when teaching your team the forechecking system you choose to employ. Always remember that you should make corrections to things you see a player doing incorrectly during any of these drills. If you want a player to take a certain angle then make sure you explain that to him. The purpose of the drills is to work on the skills and develop a players ability to do it properly in a game situation because he has done it a hundred times in practice, so if he is doing it wrong make sure to stop the drill and explain how you want it done. Good luck and success with your teams this upcoming season.