Stopping the puck isn’t easy – and it doesn’t get any easier with old age. John Carratu, the director of coaching for Stop It Goaltending in Woburn, Mass., has some tips for netminders looking to shore up their game.
“Adult goalies come in all shapes and sizes,” said Carratu. “In the higher-level leagues, many of the players still have that thirst for competition, while other times, it’s a purely recreational pursuit. And today, we see a lot of women who are playing because the sport might not have been available to them at a younger age.”
No matter your age, experience, or skill level, there are always ways to improve your quality of play, said Carratu, a former goalie and collegiate coach with decades of instructional experience.
Physical presence: When playing in net, focus on keeping your hands out and in front of you – you’ll be surprised at how many pucks will just hit you.
Play within your crease: This is a purely tactical effort. Often times, goalies get "lost" when they go too far outside of the crease, and become vulnerable on passes or rebounds. You don't need to stray outside of the crease to play good angles and manage depth.
Freshen up the gear: A simple way to improve your game as an adult goalie is to ditch your heavy, old-school equipment. Today’s goalie equipment is more protective, lighter, and designed to aid your performance. You’ll play with more confidence, reduce the risk of injury, and improve your game.
The “cone of shame”: Think about the last time you saw a dog wearing a cone. You might have felt bad for them, but think about that dog’s experience the next time you’re in net. See, when a dog wears a cone, they can only focus on what’s in their range of vision and doesn’t get distracted by other things. Sounds a lot like playing goalie, right? The next time you’re on the ice, don’t let yourself be distracted. Make an effort to focus on tracking the puck, and nothing else.
Remember – you get to play hockey! Carratu’s last piece of advice is the most basic, but the most important. Keep having fun. Hockey is the greatest sport and one that should be enjoyed. So, win or lose, work hard, have fun, and enjoy yourself!
Here are two drills goalies can use to improve:
Heel-and-Toe Figure 8s
This drill focuses on edge work, shuffle step, and rotations and can be done anywhere on the ice. Be sure to use your entire skate blade, maintain body control, and lead with your eyes, stick and gloves.
Place two pucks roughly 5 feet apart.
Start in a butterfly and execute a Figure 8 using on-ice recoveries.
Use your outside skate's inside edge to push around the puck, starting with your heel and shuffling back between the pucks. Repeat from the opposite side.
This drill will help you stay square to the puck while minimizing holes in your stance during side-to-side, short-distance movement. Done correctly, you’ll be in better position when a shooter is carrying the puck in tight or across the slot.
1. Begin in your stance, square to the puck with your weight distributed on the inside edges of the balls of your feet.
2. Transfer your weight to the ball of the foot on the inside edge of your “drive” leg (the leg opposite of the direction you intend to move).
3. Bring your drive leg back to its place in your regular stance position.
4. Shift your weight to the inside edge of your lead skate (the one closest to the direction you shifted) and work to resist momentum.
For more goaltender drills and skills information, visit USAHockeyGoaltending.com.