In Ice Hockey, the break-out play is the one strategy that is the backbone of each successful goal-scoring attempt. This play is often overlooked in practice and is difficult to execute during games due to the contradictory principles. It is a basic play used to exit the defensive zone in an organized manner.
The challenges are as follows:
1) The breakout play begins in the defensive zone, usually by collecting the puck behind the net
2) Upon entering the defensive end, the wingers peel to the boards. There they await a pass and must resist charging straight into the neutral zone where a long-range pass is almost sure to fail. The neutral zone is the space between the two blue lines.
3) The center provides defensive support and a pass option by lingering in front of the net.
Motivating the defense, wings and center to cooperate during a breakout is a key skill to develop for any junior league hockey team.
First, the defense must take control of the puck and set up the play. They first enter their own defensive end and go behind their net. This will create space and time for the wings and center to swing low and get open for a pass. The play then starts in the direction of the wing who is most open. As soon as a clear path is open to either wing, a swift, direct pass should be made. Sending the puck along the boards to the wing is another option and a last resort is to send the puck high off the glass. A pass across the slot is always too risky.
As the first pass is made, the opposite wing and center will skate at an angle to the opposite boards. This diagonal movement opens them to a pass from the winger that received the first pass. Time is of the essence as that player can expect to be pressured by an opposing defender.
The next pass must be made quickly to avoid the oncoming pressure and is to either the center or the flying wing. Once the winger has completed the first pass, they will follow their pass and skate diagonally toward the opposite boards.
Recap: collect the puck, make space in the wing to receive a pass, and maintain a defensive position at center. After this three-step set-up it’s all one-two passes to the diagonally soaring winger or the lingering center. And, as always, when receiving a pass face the puck, act quickly but smartly and lastly… never stand still. With these fundamentals in place, young girls’ and boys’ ice hockey talents are sure to excel.