12. How to Execute in a Two-on-One Situation

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Stolen from a piece written by Kendall Banks, with additions from Missy Kehoe.

The basic play is this: one player swims with the puck to a certain point and then passes to the other who scores. Sounds simple. But what is the best way to go about it and how do you increase your chances of scoring? There is no one answer but here are some ideas that might help.

Is it best to pass around the Defender's Swat Zone (the area in which a defender can knock down your pass, or DSZ) or through it?

You might have the opportunity to go around the DSZ early or with a really wide pass, but either of these options will mainly buy time for the defenders help to arrive. If it really is a two on one let's take our chances on going to the goal, not just maintaining possession until the numbers even back up. In a two on one against the last man the most productive play is generally through the DSZ.

Given that you have decided to attempt going through the DSZ then you want the puck to travel as short a distance through that volume as possible and at as high a speed as possible. Work together to accomplish this in the following ways:

(As the Receiver) Reduce the DSZ by Positioning your Body

The defender will usually want to move their stick backwards once the puck is released. The positioning of the receiver's body can prevent the defender from doing so. Don't "go out for a pass". Coming down from mid-water, position your body as close to the defender's stick as possible to take away a large part of their DSZ with your body. Also, have your stick ready to battle for the puck in the event that the defender does connect when they swat at it. Use your body to seal off the defender’s access to the puck. If the puck goes by the defender’s stick by an inch or by ten feet, it is your puck. If the puck hits the defender’s stick and drops straight down you still have a good chance of retrieving it (if you are in good position). If the defender hits it a little bit in front you still have a shot at it. If it just gets past the wall of your body, it's yours. Then maintain with your body and legs your relative positional advantage while kicking to the goal.

(As the Passer) Get the Puck Past the Stick

The puck is going its fastest when it leaves your stick and does nothing but slow down after that. If the puck travels four feet before it even enters the DSZ then it is going a lot slower than it could be. The defender knows they are the last defender and will likely play soft and tempt you to let the puck far away from their stick. This gives the defender a better chance of swatting the pass down. Don't shoot too early and also don't slow down. Anytime you have an advantage in numbers and you slow down you are reducing that advantage.

Another trick defenders use is the fake. The defender will fake an attack trying to draw a flick they can anticipate by having their hand moving backwards already. Again, don't bite and don't slow down. The receiver can help if they can move with the defender on the fake to occupy any space the defender momentarily gives up. Play the player, not the anticipated length of your teammate's pass.

In review, to complete a successful 2 on 1:
  1. The receiver should decrease the size of the DSZ by the positioning of their body.
  2. The passer should release the puck close to the defender's stick and preferably when the defender’s stick is moving towards the passer - but don't get stuffed.

Other Do's and Don'ts:

  • Have the puck ready for a quick release - a wind-up allows a defender time to react
  • Follow your shot - if the defender gets a piece of it you can still shove it through to your teammate if you are following up.
  • Keep kicking - time is on the defenders side if you slow down
  • Be patient - allow time for the receiver to establish position, as long as you don't slow down it's probably worth the wait
  • Be prepared to swim it all the way to the goal - usually as soon as you show the defender this with your body language they will commit to you and you will be able to execute the pass
  • Fake the defender with your eyes - look to the opposite side of them from where the receiver is actually going
  • Don't curl - it allows time for defensive help to arrive
  • Don't drop the puck down low - that is where the defensive help may be coming from - also if the defender attacks can you release the puck from there?
  • Don't get stuffed - you've given up the two on one advantage
  • Don't get too cute - remember you have the advantage, so good decision making and basic execution should make this play work
  • Don't end up lateral of your teammate if you are the receiver - with the defender's legs between you - you should have gone forward to mid-water. Do it now. Getting there late is better than being where you are now. Don't tempt your teammate to slow down.
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