Hockey transitions are the ability to suddenly adjust from being in a defensive mode to an offensive force. Hockey transitions are constant, play big roles in creating offense, and largely determine the outcome of matches.
Smooth hockey transitions, defense to offense, generally lead to quality scoring chances.
Clunky outlet passes, however, often result in turnovers.
Defensemen play primary roles in moving pucks out of the back end and swiftly through the neutral zone. To do so, through practice and constant repetition, they must learn to play with poise. They need to trust their on-ice instincts, completing crisp, on-tape passes to surging forwards.
If the passes are off the mark, opposing forwards can take advantage of odd-man breakaways.
Transition hockey takes a team-wide dedication to perfect.
But with a passion to refine the skill set, opponents could be hard-pressed to limit shots on goal.
To create havoc in the offensive zone, transition hockey must be executed quickly and efficiently.
When a turnover occurs, the player who gains possession must instinctually react to the sudden change and trust his teammates will be in a position to make plays.
To begin, transitions should occur with flow and purpose. After players retrieve a loose puck, they need to quickly look to move it forward.
If a player stickhandles too much, opponents will have extra time to recuperate and readjust to losing possession of the puck.
Dissecting Turnovers in Hockey
The following sequence occurs countless times each period, each match.
A tipped puck is jarred loose from a rushing opponent’s blade. After going hard into a corner and gaining possession, players have a few basic decisions to make.
And they must learn to execute in an instant.
- First Option: The most important. Clear the puck out of the defensive end by passing it in transition or dumping it into the neutral zone.
- Second Option: Maintain possession. Avoid forecheckers, and skate up ice.
- Third Option: Be assertive and beat a defender one-on-one, creating time and space to make a play in transition.
- Fourth Option: Turn and shoot on goal, if the turnover develops in the offensive zone.
Plays similar to that occur constantly. How players react in similar situations is one important aspect coaches work on during practices.
Hockey Transition Drills
Preparing young skaters to simulate game-like conditions, hockey transition drills are designed to keep players’ heads up and feet moving.
Creating offense in hockey depends on skaters being prepared in all three zones. Among the variety of transition skating drills, here are two examples coaches often employ:
Quick Turn Up 2-on-1
The quick turn 2-on-1 drill gives players experience in two half-ice scenarios.
The initial situation is a quick transition, followed immediately by a 2-on-1 breakaway.
To initiate the exercise, coaches place two lines of forwards at center ice and defenders along the wall below the hash marks.
The drill begins with two forwards on each side of center ice skating to the blue line and circling back to retrieve a puck resting at center ice. The defenders begin at the top of the face-off circle.
As the two forwards race into the offensive zone, emulating a 2-on-1 break, the forwards work on two common options:
- Option No. 1: If the puck carrier skates to the wide side, the other drives hard to the net or stays high for a possible one-timer.
- Option No. 2: If the puck carrier cuts to the middle of the ice and drives to the net, the other gains a foothold above the crease area to receive a drop pass or scramble for a rebound.
The drill continues until one of the forwards scores a goal, the goalie makes a save and freezes the puck, or the puck is cleared beyond a face-off circle.
Quick Hinge Warm-Up Drill
Coaches like to use the quick hinge warm-up drill to focus on defensemen moving the puck to the outside on the initial pass before receiving it back while skating down the middle.
After the blueliners receive the second pass, they are instructed to pass it back to a hard-skating forward, attempting to avoid any vertical passes. After the forwards gain possession of the hinge pass, they skate past the blue line and fire a shot on goal, completing the high-tempo drill.
Hockey Small-Area Games
Coaches work with players to learn to play with instincts and execute plays when time and space are limited.
One proven way for youngsters to develop a better skill set is the American Development Model (ADM), which focuses on hockey small-area games.
Highlighting a variety of transition opportunities, small-area games hockey drills are shorter versions of full-rink matches. With less time and space, players learn to think and react quicker.
ADMs also serve as proving grounds for young players to refine their transition skills by emphasizing communication and choreographing skating and passing patterns.
Skating in small areas or on full sheets of ice, learning to execute smooth transitions can lead to clean hockey.
When a loose puck slides along the half-boards and is retrieved, the player who gains possession needs to act instinctively with flow and purpose and look to move it forward.
Doing so creates offense, and offense generates scoring chances giving your team a greater opportunity to win games.