Split-squad drills are a great way to provide your hockey players more repetitions and personal attention during practice. This method is particularly beneficial for teaching defensemen how to deal with pressure from a forechecker. (Watch Nail Yakupov’s practice.)
The following drill will enhance a defenseman’s ability to handle pressure and initiate a strong breakout pass. Encourage them to communicate with the goalie and to use the net as a shield.
As the puck moves up the ice, your defenders should try to join the rush. This forces opposing forwards to back check the full-length of the rink and adds offensive pressure. (See How to Score More Goals.)
Hockey Defenseman Pressure Drill
Start with the defenseman on the blue line facing the opposite end of the rink, a coach with pucks just inside the blue line and a forechecker next to the coach. On the whistle, the coach dumps the puck in the corner (the goalie can set it up if needed). The defenseman skates backwards to the top of the circle, pivots towards the inside of the ice and retrieves the puck. As the defenseman pivots from backward to forward, the coach can release the forward who will pressure the defenseman in an attempt to create a turnover for a shot on goal. The defenseman can either skate the puck out of the zone or pass it directly to the coach. (Try this Mike Green power exercise.)
Application to the Game
- Tracking down a puck on a dump
- Feeling pressure and skating away from it on a forecheck
Make sure the defensemen are pivoting in the correct direction. Too often they will turn the wrong way, which wastes valuable time and allows the forecheckers to gain ground. Explain how to use the net as a shield, and turn toward the boards to escape pressure when someone is right behind them. Do not allow them to blindly wrap the puck around the boards, which may give the puck to the other team for a scoring chance.