Blowing off the opening face-off like it’s an extension of pre-game ceremonies could cost your team the W. “Every face-off is a bit of an adventure,” says Red Berenson, University of Michigan head hockey coach. “You never know what direction or impact it’ll have on the game, but it’s definitely an important part.”
“You can win or lose a game from just one face-off,” claims the 2008 NCAA D-I Coach of the Year. Follow along as Berenson offers five tips to help you win the island ice battle, which helped the Wolverines reach the Frozen Four last season.
1. Be ready. You can’t [be] standing straight up and expect to be strong on your feet. Get down. Bend your knees, have your stick on the ice, and stick your nose into the draw. Be prepared and in position before the referee blows his whistle and approaches the circle. When the ref gets near the circle, watch his hand so you can anticipate when he’ll drop the puck.
2. Communicate with your teammates. If it’s an offensive zone face-off, your linemates should know what you’re trying to accomplish. Have an offensive play in mind and tell them. It’s as simple as letting them know that if you win the draw, you’re rushing the net for a pass or rebound.
3. Get defensive. If you’re taking a face-off in your own zone, your motto should be, “don’t lose the draw.” If possible, tie up your opponent and let your defenseman come in and secure the puck. Ultimately, your goal should be defensive puck control to get your team out of the zone.
4. Battle. Regardless of individual style, secondchance effort is key to winning a face-off. If the puck is tied up in the first go-round, do whatever you can to get control. If the puck is in your offensive zone, you can legally use your foot or hand when it’s loose to bat it to a teammate.
5. Practice. Top centermen succeed only about 55 percent of the time. So work on face-offs in practice like it’s a game situation. And study tape on your most and least successful face-offs to monitor your technique and mistakes.