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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Forechecking and Backchecking: Techniques and Strategies

Forechecking and backchecking serve the same purpose, which is to create turnovers and gain possession of the puck. They should be viewed as parts of the same strategic system, rather than as completely separate parts of the game. Transitions from forechecking to backchecking and from backchecking to forechecking are fairly seamless, and the labels are more or less a reference to the directional flow of the play, as well as the part of the ice and manner in which pressure is being applied. As you forecheck, the other team will attempt to move the puck out of their zone and up the ice. As they advance up-ice toward your zone, the transition from forechecking to backchecking occurs with backside pressure being applied to your opponents as you chase them back toward your end.


Forechecking


Forechecking is defined as defensive pressure applied in the offensive zone with the intent of creating a turnover. Typically, forwards do most of the forechecking by pressuring the opposing team’s defensemen and forwards as they attempt to break out of their own zone. Forechecking is performed with the use of several different techniques and strategies.


Forechecking Techniques


Some of the techniques used when forechecking include body checking, stick checking, sweep checking, poke checking, and just about every other form of checking that you can think of. Depending on the abilities of the individuals who are forechecking, different checking techniques are employed with varying degrees of effectiveness. Bigger players are more likely to body check their opponents in order to create turnovers, while smaller players may find that stick-checking techniques work more effectively for them than body checking.


Forechecking Strategies


Different strategies are also employed, such as a 2-1-2 forecheck, 1-2-2 forecheck, 2-2-1 forecheck, etc. The order of the numbers in each system refer to the number of players applying pressure, the number of players supporting the forechecker(s), and the number of players taking a defensive position at the rear of the formation. As an example, the 1-2-2 forecheck has 1 player applying direct pressure, 2 players supporting the forechecker, and 2 players in the defensive position closer to their end of the ice.


Backchecking


Backchecking is defined as defensive pressure applied in the defensive and neutral zones with the intent of creating a turnover. When you give chase to your opponents as you rush back to defend your own zone, you’re backchecking. Like forechecking, backchecking is performed with the use of several different techniques and strategies.


Backchecking Techniques


Whether you’re forechecking or backchecking, the same techniques are often used in order to create turnovers. Since you’re usually behind your opponents as you chase them toward your end of the ice, it’s important to keep control of your stick and avoid using it in ways that will cause you to be penalized. Stick-checking is usually the most effective technique when you’re on the backcheck, attempting to take the puck away from your opponent. But if you get careless with your stick and hook, trip, slash, or high-stick your opponent, you’ll end up in the box pretty quickly. The best way to avoid penalties is to keep your stick down and keep your feet moving. Try to catch up to your opponent and then get yourself into a strong defensive position, and don’t get lazy or you’ll end up in the box for foolish penalties.


Backchecking Strategies


There are several backchecking systems that are commonly used. The left wing lock and neutral zone trap are probably the two that you’ve heard mentioned most often, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are the most commonly employed strategies. There are many ways to backcheck effectively, and the method used by your team will depend on the skill level of the players and the overall strategy of the coaching staff.








The quick definition of the left wing lock is as follows: when the puck is turned over, your left winger jumps back alongside the defensemen near the red line and each one covers a third of the ice while the center and right wing apply pressure to the opposing team’s players from the blue line in.
The quick definition of the neutral zone trap is as follows: when the puck is turned over, both defensemen drop back near your blue line and two of your team’s forwards drop back near the neutral zone faceoff dots to clog the neutral zone, while the last forward applies forechecking pressure in the offensive and neutral zones to force a turnover.


The backchecking sytem used by your team is dependent upon the forechecking system being used. If your team is running a 1-2-2 forecheck, you could say that they’re also running what could be called a 1-2-2 backcheck. As the puck is brought out of your opponent’s zone through the neutral zone into your zone, your players, still in the 1-2-2 formation, must quickly prepare themselves to defend against the oncoming attackers.


It’s important to man up on the backcheck and keep your head on a swivel so that none of the opposing team’s players are left unguarded as they enter your zone. Communication and awareness are the keys to playing great defense. If one of your opponents is open and uncovered, make sure you communicate with your line-mates and figure out who is responsible for covering him.


Hard Work Pays Off


Now that you’re familiar with the basics of backchecking and forechecking strategies and techniques, you should be well equipped to contribute to your team in a very important way. Backchecking and forechecking aren’t the most glorious parts of the game, but they’re essential to the success of every team. When your team works hard at both ends of the ice, you’ll be sure to win more games – and your goalie will most certainly appreciate the help.

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