Every player wants to be on the power play. And at 14U/16U, competition for special teams time is heating up. So how can players be more effective on the man advantage?
Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings knows a thing or two. The Mavericks have been among the NCAA Division I men’s hockey leaders in power-play goals this season.
Basics remain the same
The goal of a power play – aside from scoring a goal, of course – is simple, Hastings says.
“It’s not a tremendous amount different than 5-on-5,” Hastings said. “You want to create 2-on-1 situations. You want guys supporting pucks. You want guys being unselfish. But I don’t believe that the word selfish should ever be equated to someone who shoots the puck. You have to have a shooting mentality.”
Players like that can break down a penalty kill and get the puck between the dots. If you don’t get it in there, you generally don’t score, Hastings said. As for systems, he believes the principles are the same no matter what your team is running.
“Whether it’s a 1-3-1, box-and-1, those should just be plans where everyone understands where the other guys are, and then it goes back to sharing it and creating a 2-on-1,” he added. “That puck moves faster than anybody can. If it goes from Point A to Point B, then stops, then goes from Point B to Coint C, you’re underutilizing your advantage.”
Faceoffs are key
While zone entry can be a point of emphasis, Hastings says another factor is a bigger key when it comes to possession and setting up. Want to improve your chances on the power play? Work on faceoffs.
“The really good power plays don’t have to spend a lot of time entering the zone because they win the first faceoff,” he said. “That’s a really important piece. When you start in that zone with possession. You can get into your structure a lot quicker.”
Jake Jaremko and C.J. Suess, two of Minnesota State’s top scorers, are good in the circle and in faceoff support.
“It’s not just the guy on the dot. We talk about creating faceoff wins as a group, more than just as an individual. We want to have support on each side,” Hastings said.
Hit me with your best shot
While fans in the stands might be yelling “shoooooot!” for the full two minutes of a man advantage, Hastings knows there’s a time and place to cut loose.
“At our level, and it should filter down, the goalie has a much more difficult time stopping something he can’t see. So having a good net-front presence is key,” he said. “That’s one thing I see when I go watch youth games – five guys on the perimeter. … You don’t see a consistent guy in front, but on the good teams, you do.”
Hastings says the ideal situation is when the shooter has a teammate camped in front of the net and two more fanned out on the strong side and weak side ready for rebounds. He notes that, particularly at the youth level, when goalies might not be as adept at controlling rebounds, this strategy works.
“Can the man with the puck see the net? Is there a clear path to the net? I will never bark at you if we’ve got net-front presence and you’ve got a lane and you shoot it,” Hastings said. “Even if we have someone on the back door wide open – I might show them a clip and say I love that you shot it, but here’s another option. I don’t criticize because I don’t want guys afraid to shoot.”
One other quality coaches look for in putting together their power play units is relentlessness.
“There are good teams that kill penalties. If you get possessions, get movement and get a shot and it doesn’t go in, what are you doing to retrieve it?” Hastings said.
Are you relentless in hunting down the puck, ensuring your team has possession and continues to generate opportunities? Are you physical in front of the net, along the boards, and using your body to gain or maintain puck possession?
Goalies can help, too
While most of the power play is focused on the five skaters in the offensive zone, Hastings notes that goalies can have a influence on a successful power play as well.
If a tired team dumps the puck and doesn’t get off the ice quickly enough, an adept goalie can pounce and play the puck out in a hurry, setting his or her teammates up for an easy zone entry or quick scoring chance. Hastings singled out former Minnesota Duluth goalie Alex Stalock, now with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, as a master of that skill.
“Stalock is unbelievable. He’s been doing that since he was about 14,” he said. “You have to respect that, because he can cause you problems. Setting up pucks and having a goaltender communicate if pressure is coming is huge.”