The old saying goes, “defense wins games.” And keeping the biscuit out of the basket has been the bread and butter for University of Denver hockey.
The Pioneers racked up another NCAA Super Regionals appearance behind a 2.40 goals against average in 2008-2009. Good goaltending, yes. But this program has had five All-American selections on defense since 2004, including two-time honoree and 2006 Hobey Baker Award winner Matt Carle.
Here, DU assistant coach Steve Miller offers instruction for one of the most critical situations a D-man will face: playing a one-on-one.
1. Position yourself one zone away to maintain a good gap. You don’t want to play outside the dots. You’ve released the defensive blue line; once you get to the red line, the opposing forward should be on the offensive blue line.
2. You’ve pushed off—transitioning from skating forward to backward—on the red line, and the forward is rushing up the boards. You can read the play from here. If he doesn’t have any support coming to the middle of the ice, you can start to reposition your body and slide toward the outside of the boards, gliding with your feet under you.
3. If the forward has the puck and is coming up the boards, play off his inside shoulder. If he cuts back, you need him to cut back into you. If you play his outside shoulder and go for the puck and miss, he can make a move, go down the boards to the net, and there’s a good chance you’re beat.
4. Checking is all about angling; always start from the middle out. Don’t look for the big hit. Play good, get a sound position and play the angles. If the forward cuts back into you, force him to the boards.
5. Make sure one hand is on the stick, and be aware of good stick detail—your stick is on the ice, stick on stick. If your stick is up in the air and hooking the forward’s arms, potential for a penalty exists. Secondly, a pass can go under you to a forward joining the rush who may be open for a shot.