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Foundation (Guest post by Matti Korhonen)

5 Foundation Pillars That Separate Great Goalies From Average Goalies

Often I hear a question "How can I play in the NHL? What do I need to do"? In this article I will talk about the very basic foundation you must have if your goal is to play in the NHL. If you want to succeed in hockey or most likely in anything else in life, you must have this foundation.

1. Passion is where it all starts. That is the most important thing to have on the way to success. When you have passion for what you're doing you know what you want to do, you love to do it and you naturally want to give it your best effort. Passion is what drives us to improve and allows us to rise from average to great. If you have passion, you will do your best to become a better goalie, no matter your age, talent or skill level.

2. Faith is an essential part of a character of every successful person. You need to have faith in yourself and life overall because when you are trying to rise above the average, things never go smooth. People will be pulling you down, and they will be telling that you can't do it, especially when you're facing obstacles. That's why you need to have faith. If you don't believe in yourself and have faith, who will? When you have faith in life overall and you believe that with hard and smart work you can reach your dreams, then you'll have a chance.

3. Determination comes with passion and faith. Everyone knows there are no shortcuts to the top and nobody cares about your success more than you do. The only way is to work hard, smart and not give up. It is easy to work hard for one day, one week or even one year, but not year after year, all year around. If you are determined to work hard and smart for your dreams every day, sooner or later at least some of those dreams will come true.

4. Support from your family in the early years is extremely important because if your parents are not willing to let you try out for travel teams, to buy your equipment, pay team fees and do everything else that's necessary, you'll have no chance of becoming a great goalie. How can you have a chance if the closest people to you are holding you back in the beginning?

At some point you are old enough to make your own money to buy equipment, etc. and it never hurts to ask people to help. I think parents who consider that they can't afford hockey should at least try because there are hundred different ways to get sponsors and people to help. Usually it is pride that is holding them back from asking help.

Also, when you get older, you'll have to be smart about what kind of people you surround yourself with. Do your friends encourage you to train and try harder or are they trying to talk you into drinking and doing drugs on a Friday night when you should be preparing for Saturday's game? Does your girlfriend think it's cool that you play hockey or is she complaining that you have to go to the rink again when she wants to go to a movie with you?

People around you are like your mirrors and you will become more or less like them. Either they will make you a better person and a better goalie or drag you down. You have the power to choose.

5. Great coaching is what all champions, no matter what sport they play, have in common. Behind all great NHL goalies is a great goalie coach (or coaches) who has all those characteristics mentioned above and solid expertise, combining playing experience and formal coaching education. If you want to become great, you need to have your own goalie coach because when was the last time you heard of someone winning a championship without a coach? Almost every very successful person has had someone mentoring them at some point of their lives, not only successful goalies.

If you have passion, faith and determination, supportive family and friends, and you're lucky enough to find a great goalie coach who has iron strong expertise, then you have a good chance to become really good or even great.

Written by Matti Korhonen Founder of Goalie Force Academy For more free goalie tips like this visit http://www.GoalieForce.com.

 

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Rebound Control - low, on-ice, off centre line shots

The key to controlling low, on-ice shots is to get your stick on as many of these shots as possible. Unless the play is really tight you should be able to get a stick on most low shots simply because of hand speed. Unfortunately many goaltenders have developed the habit of just allowing low shots to hit their pads and rely on pad angle to steer the puck off to the side. In reality this just does not work effectively. The idea is rebound control not "rebound controlled". Understanding this you need to focus on developing your stick usage in practice to steer pucks where you want them to go...either into corners, away from traffic or at least high so it is more difficult for the opposition to control.

So how can we effectively control low shots. Well first, your blocker hand needs to be positioned forward of your body & not resting on your pad or hip. You need that degree of "unlocked" movement so your blocker/stick can function in a smooth, controlled fashion to either left or right.

Next we need to get upper body/shoulder rotation to keep the stick engaged to the surface of the ice & prevent stick toe or heel lift. Also, keeping your head over the puck will facilitate this rotation & give you better vision & improve your post save recovery process as the puck travels into your body area and away.

Don't reach for pucks - allow the puck to come into you & bring your stick back to create a cushion type effect. This will add a superior dimension of stick control and allow more accurate rebound placement, especially on bad angle shots to the far side..

And a last point - always contact the puck to either side below the tops or your pads. This keeps you from reaching and playing the puck to far away from your body thereby diminishing effective control the shot.

 

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Maintaining alertness in low shot games

This is a difficult situation, especially for the younger goaltender. Goalies up to 13 (and even older) do not have the longest attention span & when they are inactive (few shots) their concentration is not as sharp as it should could be.

My answer to this challenge is to attempt to explain to them that their concentration & focus should work something like a traffic light:

Puck is in the other end = GREEN LIGHT - I am relaxed & just watching the play happen

Puck enters the neutral zone = ORANGE LIGHT – I am in a relaxed, focused mode; I count the number of attackers; I look to see if the puck carrier is one of their better players; I note if he shoots right or left handed; I note if we have any back checkers coming back; I look to see if my defensmen are in good position; I move quickly into position in a relaxed stance & get proper angle as soon as the puck crosses the red line

Puck crosses my blue line = RED LIGHT – I am completely 100% focused & in full stance BUT I look off the puck whenever I can to see if the puck carrier has any passing options or if my defensemen are still available to intercept passes. I maintain a high level of alertness even when my own player has possession of the puck anywhere in the zone (even behind the net) and until the puck has moved outside my own blue line & the light turns to ORANGE.

 

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The importance of ice "Awareness"

Just how important is awareness to a top end goaltender?

Let's just take a look at a situation that potentially happens at least once per game: the play is down low, puck carrier on goalie's right, potential back door threat on the left. As that play had developed coming in over the blue line, the goalie noted a player moving down low (back door) on the opposite side. Although not in his sight line, the goalie was "aware" of the potential threat.

So, when the puck carrier made the pass, the goalie attempts to intercept it with a stick poke check. Unsuccessful with the poke check, the goalie sprawls backward into a "long body" position and is able to make the save. Without the goalie's "awareness" of the full situation, the red light would have flashed instead of the whistle being blown.

So how do we develop this "awareness"? Well it does come with experience, but the harder you work to acquire it, the better you will become. Here are some tips:

  1. - look "off" the puck often whenever the opposition is not in a shooting position especially when the puck is below the goal line
  2. - even as you follow the path of the puck, attempt to note where everyone on the ice is positioned or their direction of movement
  3. - attempt to understand your opponents options based on their positioning
  4. - although puck focus is a priority, don't just lock in on the puck
  5. - don't be one dimensional; develop awareness habits and simplify your game.
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Challenges of moving up to the next level

For the most part, a goalie moving up a level as a first year is very difficult, even with a good team in front of you. It is unfortunate but many times a goaltender is “thrown into the fire” so to speak and not given the opportunity to develop his/her skills at a more normal pace. If that is your or your son’s/daughters situation, expect lots of peaks & valleys.

Many times in these situations, goaltenders tend to receive an inordinate number of shots. Shot numbers are less relevant if they are just single shots, but for the most part a good number are probably second or third shots. And, this is where problem lies. Most every time there is a large discrepancy in shots or territorial edge it forces the goaltender to play in a scramble or overactive mode, and technical skills are apt to deteriorate as the goaltender scrambles & dives in an attempt to simply “stop the puck”. (I have also seen situations where the goaltender was simply overwhelmed & unable to keep pace with what is happening around her/him because of a huge discrepancy in skill levels of the teams)

So, despite the adage that lots of shots are a good thing that is only true if it one is not constantly overwhelmed. Probably the one thing lots of shots will develop is one’s battle level. But, only if one has the physical strength & mental toughness to keep up with the pace.

It is difficult to find the positive in this situation. However, if the goaltender, can remain positive and concentrates on improving & developing his/her skills & not the score there should be little or no harm done. Of course, for that to happen, support from coaches & team mates are vital.

 

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