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Posted by on in Alexander

I like to watch team practices whenever I can.  From youth/minor hockey to junior & pro.  I find I can learn a lot about a goaltender simply by the way they practice. One thing that really stands out, especially at the minor/youth hockey level, is a lack intensity in practices and the amount of time spent unproductively.  With few exceptions, I also see goaltenders left on their own without anyone really working with them to improve his/her skill development during practices, even if there is a position coach with them on the ice. (but that’s a topic for another time)

Let me begin by telling you it is my belief that the old saying "you play like you practice" is exactly true....if you give your best effort in practice you'll do the same in the game; if you pay attention to details in practice you will in a game.  For the goaltender, I think this so much more important since your play, good or bad, could determine the outcome of a game.  I also believe that every goaltender needs to take responsibility for their development and needs to engage in a certain amount of self-coaching and, also believe that practice is the only time one can really work on skill development. 

If you are such a goaltender, I want to pass on a few observations that will make practice more productive for you:

- prepare; make sure you are warmed up and stretched before you get on the ice.  Time on ice is meant for developing skills, not really for warming up and stretching

- do you need to go to the drill explanation each time the coach whistles players in?  Ask the coach to signal you in only if you really need to be a part of the drill.  Otherwise ask to use the time to work on some aspect of your game such as puck handling, inside edge work skating or lateral slides/recoveries; sealing off the post in a VH or RVH etc.

- have a practice plan; you need to go on the ice with some goal or objective.  Discuss it with your position coach before going on the ice, if you have one.  Perhaps it is something you want to improve on from your last game like keeping your hands ahead of your body in stance, keeping your stick on the ice and in your 5-hole.  Basically, anything you want to become better at

- get your skating in first; as soon as you step on the ice, head for a crease and do your skating drills.  You need to work on skating every practice.  Make sure you check with your coach first so he can keep one net clear from player shooting

- work on your puck tracking; track every puck from the time it leaves the shooter’s stick, as it comes into your body and you smother it or catch it or direct the rebound away with your blocker, pad or stick. (tip: keep your nose pointed to the puck)

- follow rebounds; if you can't follow them physically (sometimes the spacing between shots doesn't permit time to physically reposition on rebounds) at least continue to track pucks visually after you make the save

-  practice is a good time work on game situation communication with your team-mates; vocalize information to your team-mates when the team is working power play or penalty kill or breakouts.  It will be easier to transfer this skill to games if you have already practiced it

- battle hard to stop every shot; even those you know you don't have a chance to stop.  Reason being, your team-mates will appreciate your effort when you challenge them & it will show your commitment to improving.  And secondly, your “battle mentality” will translate into your game play and help you make that "game saving" stop from time to time

- handle pucks at every practice; make it a point to get out and stop any rims or pucks that come near the net

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going"