This is one of a series called Hockey 101, addressing the basics of hockey positioning and systems appropriate for a beginner to intermediate player and their team.
Offensive Zone Entry
Zone entry describes the time when the forward group enters the offensive zone. Typically, this is done as a close unit, as this proximity is set up by standard breakout plays.
As we mentioned before, once forwards transition out of their defensive structure, their positions become much more fluid. In modern systems, we define them using F1, F2 and F3 (often in the order they leave/enter the zone, or proximity to the puck). In this article, we will address the one, most fundamental type of 3-man zone entry, the WIDE DRIVE.
Wide Drive (F1, F2, F3)
The most common type of zone entry is often called “wide drive” and it is the bread and butter of understanding a systems-based offensive zone entry.
F1 Drive Wide
In this scenario, F1, carrying the puck, should seek the enter the zone wide, usually near the dots. This simultaneously creates more options for his play, as well as forces defenders to commit to positions and engages them 1v1 instead of 1v2. Careful not to go too wide, as the boards can be used against you to take away space.
Crossing near the faceoff dot is ideal, depending on where the defenders are setup. F1 can then try to beat a defender with speed, or make a delay move or escape turn in the circles to open space for other attackers entering the zone.
F2 Drive The Net
The second forward, F2, should drive HARD up the middle to the net. This will either draw the defender away from the puck carrier, or will force the second defender to pivot to control this attacker, or will allow a man to drive to the front of the net unguarded.
This attacker should skate full breakaway speed, but then STOP in front of the goaltender in most cases. After stopping he can be ready to drop low to support a cycle or dump in, or can remain in the slot as a shot or tip option. Don’t do the “lazy circle” into the corner if the pass doesn’t come. You take yourself (and your team) out of the play. Stop in front.
F3 Puck Support
The third forward, F3, should provide backside support to F1. This means he should trail F1, offering an option for a pass, or picking up a dropped puck. Defending teams will have to be smart to cover this third attacker. F3 usually wants to cheat to the center, rather than skating directly behind F1, as this is usually a more open lane for a shot.
If forwards fail to cover F3 and defenders are engaged with F1 and F2, F3 is often available for a drop-pass from F1 and may execute a quick shot, with F2 offering a screen or tip in front of the net.
Remember to Skate
Zone entry often relies on the players without the puck skating faster and harder than the player with the puck. Just because the puck isn’t on your stick doesn’t mean that it’s time to stop skating.