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This article is geared to both goalies and their coaches. After three decades of goalie coaching I’ve come to notice some common themes that should be addressed if the goalies are going to be at their best in games. Coaches and their netminders should be on the same page when it comes to practice so here goes……

1) Practice the “one puck theory” as much as possible

What do I mean by “one puck”? Well, how many games have you played where multiple pucks are being shot at the same time? Not so many eh? Then why do we run drills where more than one shooter is shooting the puck at the goalie? Why is the next shooter bearing down on the goalie when he or she hasn’t finished playing out the first shooter’s puck yet?

In a game, goalies need to have their “auto pilot” set on finishing each offensive situation to its end. If the goalie has barely made the save on the first shooter and another is winding up, the goalie not only risks injury, but practices sloppiness since they have to leave their first play early so they can try and get to the second one.

Set up drills so the goalie has time to complete the first movement and then have time to legitimately get to the next play. This teaches the goalies to focus on the “one puck” all the way through and it gives the shooters a goalie who is giving them his or her full attention. A fully-focused goalie challenges the team’s shooters to make better shots. Goalies must learn to flow from spot to spot to spot. Create drills that feature natural goalmouth progressions that mirror the timing of scrambles and passes in games. Some of the best drills have been ruined simply because the timing from one shot to the next is too fast for the goalie to react to it.

2) Pay Attention To Where You Send The Puck!

Whether the goalie is taking warm-up shots, facing odd-man rushes or defending the power play, for goodness sake pay attention to where you send the puck!! If the goalie is sloppy in drills and doesn’t care where the puck goes, that is what will happen in a game. Control rebounds!! Freeze the puck or clear it to a safe location. Freezing the puck is a lost art. Too many goalies nowadays smack the puck blindly to the same spot after a save. If opposing teams recognize that the goalie always sends the puck to the same place, they will send a player to that spot to intercept the puck and score before the goalie knows what happened. Make it a habit to aim pucks safely away from traffic or freeze them quickly. If the goalie is consistently sloppy and careless in practice, don’t be shocked when the same pattern happens in games.

3) Incorporate Multiple Skills & Situations Into Practice As Much As Possible

Goalies have an active role in many situations, but they rarely get to rehearse them in practice. Take breakouts for example. Most coaches dump pucks away from the goalie so the D can practice the breakouts. Goalies zone out waiting for shots to come off the re-group and then start to pay attention. Since many slot goals were breakdowns in how dump-ins were handled by the D or goalie, why not make the goalie practice proper sets and quick-outs with the D. Practice your verbal and non-verbal cues so mistakes won’t happen in games. What lingo do the D and goalies want to use so they know what’s going on when the goalie is setting, passing or clearing the puck? Forecheck the goalies so they learn to make proper choices with the puck under pressure. What transition decisions occur if the puck is turned over on the breakout? Creatively practicing breakout skills in an active way will pay dividends in games. Create other types of drills that require choices, decisions and transition for the goalies! Just make the situations realistic so the plays can be run all the way through!(remember the “one puck” rule!)

4) You Can’t Turn On In Games What You’ve Turned Off In Practice!

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve heard a goalie say “I’m not a practice goalie, I’m a gamer!” Well sorry “Gamer”, you’re full of baloney. There is no way that you can coast sloppily through a practice and magically turn on your Vezina winning performance when a game starts. Slumps occur when seemingly innocent sloppiness becomes a habit. In other words, if you aren’t consistent in how you play the angles, execute saves and control rebounds in practice, those bad habits become ingrained as muscle memory and will affect game performance. Goalies have to have an innate awareness as to how they move, read and react to the plays around them. Be active and engaged in practice and the game results will show it. Coaches: if you see your goalie dogging it….call them on it! Don’t settle for mediocrity!

This article was contributed by Fred Quistgard of Quistgard Goalie Training.


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