Let’s be honest, it is ALWAYS more fun to shoot on a goalie. However, it is not always possible to have 2 goalies available every time you step on the ice.
There is something innate in all humans that brings out the competitive spirit when we have a goal or target to aim at. This is no different in hockey.
Below we give 7 ways to play hockey games, small area games, or battle games with only one goalie. In the setups below, both the offense, and the defense can still score points with only one goaltender.
The setups listed can be used when a team has one goalie on the ice, or a coach wants to rest and rotate each goalie. Always make sure to keep score, which will ignite the competitive flame for the players and make the games more fun!
7 Ways to Play Games With One Goalie
1. Defensive Gates
Give the defense the option to score points by skating a puck through a gate, instead of just aimlessly knocking the puck out of play. Giving both the offense and defense the ability to score goals will increase the game intensity. Below are 2 examples of Defensive Gates games.
Defensive Gates Example # 1 - Picket Fences 2v2 or 3v3 (shown below) has the players utilizing 3/4 of a zone. Offense is trying to score while the defense is working to skate through the gate. The players that are not playing work to keep the puck in the zone. This game is intense and coaches should blow the whistle to rotate players every 30-45 seconds to keep the speed up. Keep score!
Defensive Gates Example # 2 - Half-ice Picket Fences with 2 Gates (shown in the animation below) uses the whole zone and defenders can use either gate to score a point. If they do not have the time and space they can always regroup and try going up the other side of the ice. Offense works to forecheck and score on the only goalie. Coaches can change up the points here and have goals be worth 2 points while the defensive gate exit is worth 1.
2. Defense Passes To Next In Line
Below are 4 examples of where the offense tries to score while the defense breaks the puck out and passes to the next players in line. All games shown below are continuous.
Defense Passes to Next In Line Example # 1 - Continuous In Zone 2 v 2 and Continuous In Zone 3 v 3 Game - (displayed below) the offense is trying to score, while the defense works to pass the puck to the next players in line. When the next players in line get the puck, they play offense while the the players that were previously on offense, switch to defense. Coaches can have the game be 2 or 3 points for a goal and 1 point for a completed breakout pass.
Defense Passes to Next In Line Example # 2 - Continuous 2 v 2 Station (shown in the animation below) is similar to the Continuous 2 v 2 and 3 v 3 video above, yet it is in a station setup. As you can see from the animation, the offense is trying to score, while the defense works to pass to the next players in line. When the next players in line get the puck, they play offense while the the players that were previously on offense, switch to defense.
Defense Passes to Next In Line Example # 3 - Continuous 1 v 1 Station (displayed in the diagram below) uses the goal, defensive gates, and a breakout pass to next in line as possibilities to score points. 3 points for a goal for the offensive team, 2 points if the defense skates the puck out of the zone through the gates, 1 point for the defense passing the puck out of the zone to the next forward. 0 points if the coach blows the whistle and changes lines.
This setup is continuous as well, when the next player in line gets the puck, they play offense while the player that was previously on offense, will switch to defense.
Defense Passes to Next In Line Example # 4 (variation) - above are 3 examples where if the defense got the puck they could pass it out to the next players in line and the next players would join the game while the defense rotates out. One way coaches can modify the 'defense passes to next in line' set up is... when the defense gets the puck and passes to the next in line, the defense immediately gets the puck back and are now on offense. So essentially, when the defense gets the puck, they must pass to the next in line and get the puck passed back to them to create a change of possession and allow them to go on offense, when this happens the defense switches to offense and the offense switches to defense. This setup allows coaches to have the players go fo 30-45 seconds until the coach blows the whistle for the next group to play. A game that uses this setup is the 3 v 3 Mystery Game.
3. Use Tires or Cones As Nets
Coaches can make one team shoot on a goalie while the other team tries to hit a small target, like a tire or a cone. Below is an example of one goalie and 2 tires. Coaches should rotate so players can both shoot on a goalie & tires. 1 point for a goal, and 1 point for hitting a tire! Smaller the target, the harder it is to score.
Use Tires As Nets Example - 2 v 2 With 1 Goalie & 2 Tires (seen below) both teams are trying hard to score points, no matter if it is on a goalie or on a tire.
4. Take Back
Use a line or object where the defensive team needs to get to before they can attack again. Depending on the number of players, you can use the blue line, center ice line, the goal line, or other objects (like cones or tires) as a take back area. Below are two examples of take back games.
Take Back Example # 1 - 2 v 2 Corner Battle Tag Up (shown below) has the Florida Panthers playing a 2 v 2 battle game down low where at least one player on the defensive team needs to get the puck back behind the goal line before their team can attack the net.
Take Back Example # 2 - Half-Ice Blue Line Take Back 3 v 3 is displayed in the diagram below. This is a more traditional Take Back setup where there is a 3 v 3 or 4 v 4 game in the zone and the defensive players need to take the puck back past the blue line, and all get onside, before they can attack and shoot on net.
5. Rotate Forwards & Defense
Another simple method for making the most of just one goaltender is playing a small area game but continuously rotating offense & defense every 30 - 45 seconds. It is important that all players get reps at both offense and defense.
Rotate Forwards & Defense Example # 1 - Stick In Lanes Game (which is shown in the video below) has 6 stationary forwards trying to make quick passes and score while 2 defenders work to take away passing lanes. This game can be modified to be 6 v 2, 6 v 3, or 4 v 2. Offense can be awarded points for scoring and defense can be awarded points for stealing the puck and skating it past the forwards and outside of the playing area. Rotate so all players get reps at offense and defense.
Rotate Forwards & Defense Example # 2 - Swiss 4 v 2 Scoring Game below is similar to the above game but you can clearly see the rotation between forwards & defense, which makes it easier for coaches to rotate groups of 2. During a change of possession, whistle, or goal, players rotate the following way:
- 2 new players rotate into the game and are the offensive point players
- the previous 2 offensive point players rotate to defense
- the previous 2 defenders rotate to be the low forwards
- the previous 2 low forwards rotate to the back of the line
6. Complete 4 Passes In A Row, Then Attack!
Another fun competitive way is to set up any small area game with only one goalie, is require the offensive team to complete 4 passes (or any number of passes) in a row before they can take a shot on net.
This setup is not only great for players, but it also allows a goalie to practice tracking the puck with t-pushes & shuffles instead of just getting bombarded with shots. When the defensive team gets the puck on a turnover, they works to complete the required number of passes in a row before they are allowed to go on offense and shoot. The process repeats itself after every shot or possession change. If there are too many shots, coaches can require more passes. If there are too few shots, coaches can require less passes.
7. Get a Point on Empty Net, Get To Shoot On Goalie
It is always tough when only one goalie shows up during a full ice scrimmage. Usually one team gets to shoot on a goalie and the other team is forced to try to hit a post. More often than not, the team that is shooting on a post quickly loses interest, and the whole game suffers.
Instead of just playing “posts” you can ramp up the competitive spirit by making a rule that if a team hits a post (or a specific target) on the empty net, they are awarded a point and now allowed to shoot on the goalie. The team that was previously shooting on a goalie, now has to shoot on the empty net and try to get a point.
So, the goalie switches sides ONLY when a point is scored on the empty net. The players shooting on the goalie can score as much as possible on the goalie, but the goalie ONLY switches ends when a point is scored on the empty net. Depending on the skating ability of the goalie, you can require the goalie to sprint down to the other end when a point is scored on the empty net, or you can have all of the players on the ice switch ends after a point is scored. There will be stretches where the goalie switches a lot, and stretches where there are no switches, but no matter what, the team that is trying to get a point on the empty net will be trying much harder because they want the opportunity to shoot on the goalie.
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