An odd-man rush—in which there are more attacking players than defenders, such as two-on-one or three-on-two—presents a problem to the defending players. Since they can’t cover every attacking player, the defenders need to make choices. The job of the attacking players is to exploit those choices to create a goal-scoring chance.
The basic strategies for both offense and defense in a two-on-one situation are relatively clear, given the limited options the lone defender has to choose from. On a three-on-two, things get considerably more complicated, with the addition of two moving parts, but the aim of the offensive players is the same—to force the defenders to move, thus opening space for a shot from a good angle. Because the offense has a man advantage, it shouldn’t be hard to create a shot on goal, but that doesn’t guarantee a good shot. Here are three keys to ensuring you create the best possible scoring chance on a three-on-two.
1. Start with the puck wide.
Since the middle of the ice is where the best scoring chances occur, get the puck to the outside, which will force one defender to leave the middle. The puck carrier (F1) should drive into the zone about even with or just outside the dot on their side. This leaves the middle open for F2 to drive to the net and F3 to fill in behind. But if the strong-side defender tries to cheat too much toward the middle, offering a direct route to goal, the puck-carrier should feel free to drive right at the goal for a shot.
The one caveat here is that the puck should not go so wide it limits passing or shooting options. You’ll sometimes see F2 circle behind F1 to receive either a drop pass or a pass to the outside. In this case, two players are now outside the zone where good scoring chances come from, and chances are that any shot taken will come from a tough angle.
2. F2 should drive to the goal.
The second offensive player should drive hard to the goal, a tactic that offers three potential benefits. If the defenders fail to pick up F2—which is unlikely—then F2 is open to receive a pass right in front of goal. More likely is that this drive forces the second defender to retreat toward the goal, opening room in the slot for F3 to receive a pass in a good position. Finally, F2’s rush to the net puts them in position to screen the goalkeeper or pick up the rebound after a shot from a teammate.
3. F3 should find the open space for the best shot.
As the last to cross the blue line, F3 is usually the player left unmarked by the defense and thus the one left open to receive a pass and take a shot. To find the space for the best available shot, F3 needs to read how the two defenders are playing and move to open space near the middle of the ice or on the back post to receive a pass. Assuming that one defender takes the puck carrier and the second covers F2 on their drive to the goal, F3 can choose to fill in behind F2 in the slot or hold on the inside edge of the weak-side faceoff circle. Receiving the puck in the slot offers F3 the most goal to shoot at, while a shot from the edge of the faceoff circle will force the goalkeeper to move all the way across the crease to make a save. If there isn’t an obvious opportunity to receive a pass, F3 can also crash the net with F2. This puts two players in position to pounce on the puck if F1 can get a shot on goal.
Because all this happens in a matter of seconds, and five players are moving in the offensive zone, there are myriad variations on this scheme. These three keys will help to guide the decisions offensive players make, no matter what the defense does. Good communication among the three offensive players is vital, and the more they practice three-on-twos, the more they’ll learn how to find open space, force the defense to make a move, and pass the puck to create a good shot. The more good shooting opportunities you can create, the more goals you’ll score.