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Coaching the Crease

By Jessi Pierce, 01/14/15, 1:45PM MST


There really is no position quite like the goaltender. Being a goalie requires a different mindset and a different set of skills from the rest of the team.

Without a doubt it takes a special player to step inside the crease.

“No other single player can have as large of an impact on the team as the goalie,” said Kevin Reiter, goaltending coach at USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. “It’s such a unique position.”

Reiter adds that too often, he notices that a goaltender’s skill development is pushed aside. On a team of 20, there are only two or three goalies on the roster, making it difficult to set time just for them.

But it’s that uniqueness of goaltending that makes it so important to know how to train and develop their specialized skills. Reiter, along with Grand Rapids Griffins (AHL) coach Jeff Blashill, offer a few tips to ensure your goalie isn’t left unattended to this season.

No Experience Required: Just because you’ve never stacked the pads in the net, doesn’t mean you can’t coach your netminder. It can be intimidating to train a player in a position that you’ve never played, but it doesn’t have to be.

“A lot of reasons coaches are hesitant to coach goalies is because they aren’t familiar with the position,” Reiter said. “Most coaches feel they are implementing goalies into their practice plan by simply giving them more shots. That can be counterproductive in terms of development. Coaches need to understand the position to prepare and develop goalies more efficiently.”

Utilize your resources. Talk to your goalie, talk to former goalies in your association and check out the USA Hockey’s Goaltending resource page.

Keep it Simple: The most effective way to teach is by using simple drills.

“Obviously you’ll have to scale the drills up or down depending on your age level, but for the most part, the same simple drills can be done at every level,” Blashill said.

Easy stick-saving, glove and blocker drills instill the basic motions and ideas of goaltending. Those simple drills will make sure that goalies get a stick on the puck as much as they can to redirect rebounds. It also will help make sure they are filling as much of the net as possible with their upper body, gloves and blocker.

Set, Then Shoot: In a game you want your goalie to be set when the opposing team’s offense attacks him or her.

“I think what happens a lot of times, even in goalie-specific drills, is shooters shoot before the goalie is set,” said Blashill. “Every coach does it, I’ve been guilty of it, too. But I’m a strong believer that if you want your goalie to be set in games, then make sure their feet are set before the shot comes in practice.”

Teach your shooters to have more patience, especially in a drill aimed at working the goaltender. Allow goalies a couple of seconds to get their feet set in each angle you have a shooter coming down.

Again: Repetition is the mother of all learning and it’s the key to your goalie’s development.

“Make sure your goaltenders have the basics down,” Blashill said. “Always be working on their angles, skating, setting their feet and so on. Those are the types of things that will carry with (goalies) through their career. Work on them over and over again.”

Work the Rebounds: There’s a large portion of the game that is played solely around the net. Make sure your goalie is prepared.

“(Working the rebounds) will help the goalies develop instinct on rebounds and playing difficult situations,” Reiter said. “Additionally, non-goalies will have the chance to practice finishing plays and scoring goals.”

Crease Confidence: A confident goalie puts their team in a better position to win. Reinforce good play and help pick his or her head up after a tough goal slips in.

“The important point is to always have patience and try to instill confidence in (your) goalies,” said Reiter. “It is as much a mental position as it a physical or technical position.

“Above all, goalies need to enjoy making saves.”

Coach Your Goalie, Coach Your Team: Include goalies in team drills and make sure they get the same amount of one-on-one attention as the rest of the squad. Their performance will improve and so will your team’s outcome. Give them the attention they deserve. Your whole team will thank you.

For more drills and resources to help develop your goalies, visit USA Hockey Goaltending.

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QUESTIONA player was escorted off the ice with one minute left in the game, but he was only given a minor penalty for Roughing. I thought you only escorted a kid off the ice for a game misconduct. Can you escort them off the ice for a minor penalty if there is less than two minutes left in the game?

ANSWER: Occasionally, game officials or coaches will send penalized players directly to the dressing room late in a game if the player’s penalty time outlasts the time remaining in the game. Especially, if they feel the player will become a “target” to opponents after the game, or if they feel the player might continue his poor behavior after the game.


QUESTIONTeam A and Team B have non coincidental minor penalties and are playing 4 on 4. Team B has a delayed penalty and team A scores. What happens to the delayed penalty?

ANSWER: If while both teams are playing at even-strength, the non-offending team scores during a delayed (minor) penalty, the delayed minor penalty is recorded (on the scoresheet) but not served. Both minors currently being served are not affected. Play resumes 4 v. 4.


QUESTIONDuring the course of play, the goalkeeper loses a glove just before an imminent scoring chance, and the potential for injury is present. Two questions: a) The glove comes off on its own, because of goalie movement. Can the official use discretion to end play? Is it mandated? b) The glove comes off due to contact with an opposing player. Can the official use discretion to end play? Is it mandated? The result of play is a goal on a goalie without a glove.

ANSWER: Situation #1 under Rule 304 in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states:

“What action should the referee take when the goalkeeper loses one of his gloves during play?

Keeping safety as the primary consideration, the referee should stop play whenever the goalkeeper loses a glove and is in a vulnerable position UNLESS there is an imminent scoring opportunity in which play should be allowed to continue until the imminent scoring opportunity has passed. Rule References 304(a & e).

If the Referee judges the goalkeeper has deliberately removed any equipment during play he should assess the offending goalkeeper a ‘Delay of Game’ minor penalty.”


QUESTION: I have safe sport and registered with USA hockey as an ice manager volunteer. Am I able to be on the bench with a coach to open doors.

ANSWERRule 201 in the USA Hockey Playing Rules states,

“Each team shall designate on the scoresheet a Head Coach prior to the start of the game. The Head Coach shall be in control of and responsible for the actions of all team personnel, including players.

A team may have up to four Team Officials on the players’ bench. Only players in uniform and properly rostered Team Officials may occupy the players’ bench."

We recommend reaching out to your Youth Hockey Association and District Registrar for more information regarding your membership and what needs to be done to be able to be on the bench.


QUESTIONIn a youth game a player is assessed the following penalties: a major for slashing, a minor for roughing and a minor for unsportsmanlike behavior, a total of nine minutes. The penalties were all called at the early part of a 12-minute period. How many players are placed in the penalty box?

ANSWER: If one player is assessed nine minutes in penalties (all minors or majors) all at one time, the offending player enters the penalty bench, nine minutes are added to the penalty clock and the teams play 5 v. 4 for the next nine minutes (assuming no other penalties are assessed or goals are scored during the next nine minutes).


The USA Hockey Playing Rules are now available as a mobile device app! Check your Apple, Android, or Windows app store to download this playing rule app free of charge.

Check out the USA Hockey mobile-friendly online rulebook application! Enter into your mobile device’s web browser to gain instant access to the USA Hockey Playing Rules (must have mobile or internet service).

The USA Hockey Playing Rules Casebook and other educational material can be found under the OFFICIALS tab at

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