Most people think hockey goalies play the position because they’re too slow to perform elsewhere on the ice. On the contrary, success as a goalie in the college game depends on quickness.
According to Michigan State hockey strength and conditioning coach Mike Vorkapich, goalies don’t have time to read a shot, just to react to the puck in order to make a save. “It’s one of those things where you might hear the shot being taken, but you’re being screened,” Vorkapich says. “You just know you’ve got to look for the puck quick, and react.”
Vorkapich believes the best way to work on your quickness is simply to “take shots,” especially if they are game-type situations, such as being screened as shots are taken from all areas of the defensive zone.
To take their training off the ice, Spartan goalies perform the Racquetball Drill. Set up is easy—all you need is a wall and some balls. Vorkapich believes this drill engages the same hand-eye coordination and works the same quick reflexes that are used when blocking a shot. Captain goaltender Jeff Lerg’s performance in the 2007-2008 season is proof—he recorded 1,136 saves for a 0.926 save percentage.
• Start in low athletic stance, 3 to 4 feet away from wall
• Begin by tossing one racquet ball off wall and catch it with opposite hand
• Toss ball back and forth as fast as possible
• Once drill is mastered, close eyes and repeat drill
• Listen to the ball bounce off wall
• Once you hear noise, open eyes and catch ball with opposite hand
• Repeat as fast as possible
Sets: 1 set for 10 minutes
Adaptation: Have a partner stand behind you and throw the ball in all directions in order to make the shots more unpredictable. Perform with eyes open and closed to simulate quick reaction when you’re unable to see the puck.
Benefits: Works on hand eye coordination; helps to stay sharp and focus before games; simulates not knowing where the shot is coming from; simulates saving shots when unable to be on ice
Coaching Points: Keep eyes on ball // Stay focused // Perform drill on game day before on-ice warm-ups