It’s a common misnomer that small area games are meant for the smallest kids at the rink. While cross-ice hockey and small area games do provide the appropriate learning environment to develop skills at the youngest levels, coaches at all levels of the game have incorporated small area games into their practice plans.
Some of the top college coaches in the country use small area games to keep practices fun and competitive while reinforcing skills and habits that come in handy when they hit the competitive ice.
Here are a few of their favorite small area games.
Neutral Zone Rapid Transition Game
By George Gwozdecky University of Denver
The game takes place in an enlarged neutral zone
• The nets are positioned near the neutral zone at the top of the end zone faceoff circles and centered between the circles
• Team A players are positioned in the end zone on one sideboards and behind the “imaginary goal line”
• Team A’s Passer is positioned with pucks immediately across the ice on the opposite side boards from the Team A players and also behind the “imaginary goal line”
• Team B players are positioned in the other end zone kitty corner from their opponent. Team B’s Passer is located across the ice from the Team B players
• The game starts out 2 vs. 2 with each team trying to score against the opposite team’s goaltender
• An assistant is given the responsibility of the monitoring the stop watch. Based upon a pre-determined shift time (i.e. 30 seconds), the assistant will blow his whistle TWICE to indicate the shift time is complete and the next shift has begun
• When a shift is whistled complete, the puck remains LIVE but may not be played by any of the skaters who are leaving the game. Each skater leaving the game must race back and arrive at their teammates waiting area. Only then may the new teammates replace them in the playing area. The first skater to the puck may gain possession and the game continues
• The head coach may blow his whistle anytime during a shift. Any time the coach blows his whistle, it indicates that the puck in play is now DEAD and must immediately be ignored. The team that did not have puck possession now looks to receive a new puck from their passer, who quickly passes in a new puck and they transition the other way to an offensive attack
• The head coach may blow his whistle numerous times throughout a shift in order to force the skaters from both teams to transition from one mode to the other
• Whenever a goal is scored, the coach will blow his whistle to indicate that the passer is about to send in a puck to his team that was just scored on
• Rule Progression/Adjustment: The center red line may be used as the “off side line” - i.e. if Team A is attacking with the puck, the puck must cross the red line before any of the Team A players
• The drill can progress to 3 on 3, 4 on 3 and even 5 on 5
• Set a specific length of time for the game
By Enrico Blasi Miami (Ohio) University
We play a small game every week called “The Hose.” We put a thick rubber hose around the net from behind the net up to the top of the circle and around the other side; basically covering the slot. We play 2 on 2 with 30-second shifts.
With every change of possession you must tag up at the hash marks or the goal line. If puck goes in the net or out of play coach throws another puck in. This drill works on battles, in tight puck protection, and making plays. There is no room to hide on this one.
Two-Second Press & Possess
By Gary Wright American International College
This simply explained Small Game consists of a traditional 3 on 3 (plus goalies) cross-ice format with a blue line and boards serving as boundaries. Shifts are shorter due to the increased pace of the game. A principle condition is that during play a coach loudly calls out two seconds (one-thousand-one…one-thousand-two) every time a player possesses the puck. If the defending team does not engage/confront the puck carrier within the allotted two seconds, then the possessing team is awarded a penalty shot. Purpose: Hockey has a slow-down and speed-up effect, and this game emphasizes the speed-up aspect to players on both sides of the puck. The two-second rule induces the defending team to urgently press the puck carrier, limiting that player’s time and space. Offensively, the puck carrier must often make quick decisions while executing in motion, as the offensive players away from the puck provide immediate support, especially short support.
4 on 2 Power Play Drill
By Keith Fisher Princeton University
In this drill you only use one zone of the ice. You have both nets in line with the dots and the zone is divided down the middle. In one half you have 4 X’s trying to score against 2 O’s. On the other half you will have 4 O’s against 2 X’s. There is just one puck and the team with two players will try to get the puck to the other side. We do this in about one-minute shifts and then switch guys. We like this game because there is quick puck movement and it encourages guys to find open ice for passes and receiving passes.
By Don Cahoon University of Massachusetts Amherst
This is a favorite game that long-time coach Red Gendron uses. Coach spots pucks behind each net in the zone. Team X defenseman breaks the puck out to a forward who attacks Team O’s defensive zone. When play dies, Team O defenseman breaks the puck out to a Team O forward who attacks Team X’s defense on a 2-on-1. The tempo, play off forehand when possible, get the puck to the net, using screens and rebounds. Keep Score.
By Ed Seney Saint Anselm College
No matter what small area game we’re playing, we try to make sure that our players understand why we are doing them. We try and incorporate basic hockey principles and concepts every time we play. Objective: Play a continuous cross-ice game that works on transitions from offense to defense, offensive zone play, forechecking, defensive zone play and breakouts Game: B1 and B2 are forechecking against W3 and W4, who are trying to break the puck out to W1 and W2. If B1 and B2 force a turnover then either B3 or B4 can join to make it a 3 on 2 offensive situation. On a turnover one B player has to get back to the defensive zone. Rules: You can have three people on offense if they gain possession of the puck. Only two players can defend at any time.
2 On 2 Neutral Zone Transition
By Tom Serratore Bemidji State University
Green players line up on the boards near the blue line in single file with pucks White players line up on opposite side of the ice, also at the blue line Coaches will line up on the opposite side of the blue line from the Green players Whistle blows and a coach will pass to his team and the 2 on 2 starts The shift length is 20 to 25 seconds. There will be a new puck if there is a goal, you miss the net, the puck is frozen or if you carry the puck into the neutral zone. Play is contained between the blue lines. The coach will yell “new puck” when the puck is on his side of the red line, when a goal is scored, the puck is frozen or goes out of play. The whistle will dictate when the next two players go. The coach who is on the side where the puck is when the whistle blows will pass to his team. Objective of the drill: Counter attacks on new pucks, rebounds and turnovers; Quick strike offense; Puck protection and offensive support; Utilizing width of the rink to create space