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Winterhawks GM & Head Coach Mike Johnston is a regular presenter at hockey coaching clinics all over the world. Throughout the season he'll be sharing his coaching philosophies with

“ With Considerations For The International Game”


•    Pull your goaltender and make a 5-on-3 power play into a 6-on-3 power play?
•    Allow your wingers not to come back in the defensive zone…to be a threat in the neutral zone for a quick counter?
•    Play with four forwards and one defenceman?
•    Pick a smaller, more skilled defenseman over a bigger, grittier, less-skilled defenseman?
•    When down by two goals, pull your goaltender with five minutes left?
•    Pull your goaltender with eight seconds left in the period and a face-off in their zone?
•    Allow your more offensive players to cheat to the offensive side of the puck or will all players have the same defensive responsibilities?
•    Use forwards on the power play point?
•    Work on plays to score on the penalty kill?
•    Allow your defence to jump into the rush indiscriminately?


1.    Be a First Pass Team

•    Defense needs to look for the smart play
•    Allow passes to the front of the net or through the middle
•    Discourage the “dump out” or “no look rim” style of play
•    Safe plays stifle creativity
•    An area pass is still a direct pass…utilize bank passes off the boards and laying pucks into open spaces for teammates to skate into
•    The players away from the puck have a responsibility to get their stick open and available for direct passes…(much like a receiver in football)
•    Use of deception “look away” to have more time to make a play
•    Practice transition off the back check and their rush chances

2.    Shoot the Puck and Drive the Net

•    Sounds simple but volume of shots are key
•    Check the shot totals of the top scorers in the NHL…and also shots that miss the net or are blocked per game…the puck must get through
•    Defensive coverage often breaks down after a shot
•    Net drives off the puck create a play at the net but also openings in the slot. First two players away from the puck must drive the net with no hesitation…(unless the puck carrier has the wide lane deep)
•    The first drive should be through the mid lane
•    Funnel shots and players to the net

3.    Activate Your Defense into the Attack

•    Encourage them to join and stay in the rush from the breakout… supporting the mid or wide lane up the ice.
•    Often the net D will have an opportunity to move up ice before the low forward in defensive zone coverage.
•    Make the attack an odd number by their blueline
•    Responsibility is in the hands of the puckcarrier…don’t blame the defence for creating options
•    Go after chips or dump in’s when they have the speed

4.    Stretch Out the Offensive Zone

•    Get the puck to the back of the net on the cycle and work plays from there… stressing their coverage
•    On shots off the rush move the puck low/high right away and catch them over backchecking
•    On low scrambles move the puck back to the point quickly and catch the team collapsing
•    Players and coaches underestimate the danger of point shots

5.    Cycle With a Purpose

•    Challenge their ability to contain by driving the seams and going to the net with the puck
•    Set picks and screens to open up ice for the puckcarier
•    Work the overload…once the puck is passed back to the corner that player needs to get into an overload position ready to shoot
•    Defence support the backside…strongside slide…or mid ice seam… practice plays involving the defence on the cycle

6.    Work Set Plays

•    Have set faceoff plays for each zone which will create an offensive advantage. Your centers should take responsibility for every set up… remember you can win by losing
•    Control breakouts vs. low trap…work options off a set pattern
•    PP stretch breakout… which has the ability to score on the rush
•    Regroups geared to beat the trap and hit their blue line with speed


Players getting used to the long two line pass…incorporate this into practice drills
Wingers leaving the zone earlier on breakouts
Always having a stretch skater in transition…giving an option for the penetrating pass
Getting skaters off the puck to stretch and come back to the puck
Continue to have the quick short support pass
Lining up for face-offs quicker
Make the rink smaller offensively…use the extra width for possession and time…but get the puck to areas where you can challenge inside the dots
Player selection will dictate your style of play…players perform differently in the international game…players who can skate, think and compete are key   


Winterhawks Gametime

Vs Kelowna
Tuesday, Apr 22, 2014 07:00 pm PDT
Vs Kelowna
Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014 07:00 pm PDT
At Kelowna
Friday, Apr 25, 2014 07:05 pm PDT
Vs Kelowna
Sunday, Apr 27, 2014 02:00 pm PDT
At Kelowna
Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014 07:05 pm PDT

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