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Expand Your Comfort Zone Beyond The Crease

Ice Hockey Goal Crease - Image Credit: http://sbn.to/gI1w6nIt is understandable why beginning goaltenders tend to have their comfort zone limited to the top of their crease. At most rinks the crease is clearly labeled by an arc or semi-arc with a rectangle. Seeing the visual boundary helps you learn the basics of being on angle and squaring up. What happens over time is a goalie can get too comfortable and end up never leaving the crease for shots and game situations that require it. Another issue is the eventual dependency on using the crease to find your angles.

As you come further out of your crease (known as telescoping) the amount of open net space decreases (as long as you are mostly square and relatively on angle). If you are not on angle and/or not square, as you move further away from your crease, your mistake is amplified exposing more open net. Coming out of your net also reduces the amount of time a shooter has to make a decision. With less net to shoot at and less time to make a shot, you have significantly increased your chances of making a routine* save or having the shot go wide.

In the beginning it will feel like a disadvantage to go beyond your crease because you lose your visual cue of where you are relative to the net. If you skate past your crease and start shuffling around you might lose your bearings and get pulled completely off angle. A good demonstration of this is to watch a shootout. For those goalies that are uncomfortable stepping out of their crease, when they do, the shooter pulls them quickly off angle and as the goalie is backing up the shooter has a wide open net.

Just like you had to learn to crawl before you learned how to walk, the same thing applies to learning how to go beyond the border of your crease, you have to practice. Start off by going out around a single skate length out of your crease, with the back of your skates at the crease line. You already know how to move around your crease up to that line, so going a foot more out should not throw your angles off too much. Keep practicing that until you feel confident that you can move in and just beyond your crease. Once you have that down, go out another skate length and practice. As you continue to learn how to maneuver further and further out of your crease, your body’s muscle memory will kick in and you no longer second guess yourself as to where you are relative to the net.

As you are practicing moving out of your crease and back, you can use the tapping post method to help you determine where you are relative to the net quicker. Avoid using landmarks around the rink including the crease itself as a way to gauge where you are. Every rink you play at will have different dimensions, landmarks, and colors. The one thing that does not change (you hope) is the dimensions of the net.

You will learn how much to “challenge” and come out of the net the more you practice and you will start to find that goals that used to zip over you or squeak by your sides will be reduced. Instead, you will be making the save.

*Please note that when I say routine I do not mean easy. What I am referring to is not needing to make a desperation save, that most likely after making the save, if there is a rebound, you will be able to recover easier to make the second save. A routine save to me would be one where the shot would be in the area made up between your blocker and glove and from your mask to your skates, not outside of that area.

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