Consistently winning face-offs will earn you more ice time and help you become the go-to guy in key situations. The formula is simple: win the face-off and your team has possession of the puck. If your opponents don’t control the puck, they’re not going to score.
To become the clutch centerman for your team, follow along as legendary University of Michigan head coach Red Berenson breaks down the Wolverines’ strategy for defensive zone face-offs.
Know the situation
Before you even jump the boards for your shift, be aware of the game situation. Make sure both your line and the defensive unit are on the same page. Everyone needs to be ready to react to a face-off win or loss.
Before the draw
Make sure your teammates on the ice, including the goalie, are in position before you enter the face-off circle. If they’re not, don’t approach the face-off dot. Order your linemates to get in position quickly, because the official can (and will) drop the puck if he determines you are delaying the game. The last thing you want is to be caught sleeping in your own zone.
“In the defensive zone, you don’t have to win the draw,” Berenson says. “But I want to make sure I don’t lose it.”
If you’re on home ice, you have a slight advantage, because the visiting centerman must place his stick on the ice first. Allow him to do so, and then recognize what your opponent is trying to do. If he’s favoring his backhand, he will most likely attempt to draw the puck back.
Watch your opponent’s hands and anticipate the drop of the puck. Instead of just whacking away with your stick, tie up the opposing center’s stick and pull the puck back to your defenseman.
Be ready to battle
If the puck is tied up, second effort is what wins most face-offs. Do whatever you can to keep your opponent’s stick or body off the puck. Tie him up, and your defenseman should step up to help out in the defensive zone.
Coach Berenson says it best: “We need a lot of intensity, we need preparation, we need to understand what our opponent is trying to do, and then we need to battle.”