Duluth, GA Kennesaw, GA

My my My my
By Bill Martin

If you want to win, you have to score goals. Every successful hockey player has to have the burning desire to improve his/her individual puck and scoring skills. At the pro level, it does not matter if a player is a first or fifth liner, they all have great skills honed over years of dedicated practice. In Illinois, our hockey numbers are growing each year and our finest AA and AAA teams compete for national honors. These teams thrive on individual and team scoring skills.

Puck Skills
First develop overall puck skills. Players on my teams always receive a heavy dose of puck work. Once a player can confidently carry a puck full speed, able to quickly veer, then you have the foundation of future point production. Learn to handle the harassment of defenders and power around other players protecting the puck.

Wrist Shot
The second greatest piece of advice I give to young players is to spend hours developing a wrist shot. Nothing compares to having the blistering, quick shot in your arsenal that not only blows the goalie away, but also helps with getting the puck out of the defensive zone, dump-ins and icing the puck. As a coach, I never want to put a weak shooter on the ice for penalty killing. I want the guy who makes sure the puck is fired down the ice with a strong wrist shot! Practice this shot 1000 times per week minimum, preferably 3000+ if you want a good one. Now this will take some time and considerable effort, but how do you think those highly paid NHL stars developed their shot?

Back Hand
Next, work on your back hand and flip shots to add some flexibility. Emphasize a strong follow-through on all shots and try to keep your head up. Once these are mastered and you are at least 11 years old, try the slap shot. However, do not fall in love with it.

Positioning, Hard Work, Determination and Strategy
Developing a shot is only part of the reason you score goals. Now you need some positioning, hard work, determination and strategy to harness your talent. One of the best and oldest pieces of advice is to go to the net hard for rebounds, screens, tip-ins, etc. This does not mean you should plant yourself there for the duration of the game, but that if you can recognize a scoring chance, you'll make it a great chance by going hard to the net.

Communicate and Keep Your Stick On The Ice
As a coach, one of the most maddening and misguided plays is the old "stick banging" play. you know, when a kid bangs his stick all over the place when his teammates have the puck. This child must learn to yell for the pass when open and keep his/her stick on the ice open for passes. Especially around the net. Many players simply do not understand that if their stick cannot "see" the puck, then the puck cannot find a path to your stick.

Good Habits!
Also, learn to always face the puck and keep your head up. I wonder how many times I've seen a puck drift past some unsuspecting player with head down and obviously not ready. You can only react to what you see. Please, when going to the net get your head up, keep the stick open and face the play.

Now for some more advanced tricks...

Shooting Speed/Power
Develop shooting speed in all shots. Now, if you take my earlier advice and spend most of your waking hours shooting, you will have some shooting speed. Working on shooting muscles like the wrist, stomach, shoulders, etc. will also help. Great players have the urge to "bury" their shots by shooting full speed each time. this is a great habit to learn.

Quick Release
Next, strive for a quick release. There are several reasons for this:

- Shoot quickly before the goalie is set up-the goalie is always vulnerable when moving;
- Shoot before a defender can react and block the shot and
- Shoot the quickest type of shot, i.e., never switch from backhand to forehand to shoot when a quick backhand shot will catch the goalie by surprise.

Be Creative
Learn to feel the scoring opportunity. Is it a good scoring chance or will two shots be needed to score? If on a breakaway, obviously you can try any move, if you have time. If on a 2 on 1, with a back-checker breathing down you neck, then maybe you won't have that time. If unsure, always shoot quick, hard and low and get after the rebound. If you have room, then try for a more precise shot or move. I especially like screen shots when coming across the high slot using a defender to shield the shot. I really hate a high, selfish shot when a low shot or pass across the crease would yield a better scoring chance. Read the play and set up the best shot you can, for yourself or your teammates.

Make up your own common sense approach to using a special spot or shot. Always aim for something - Preferably THE NET.

The best play is to deke and shoot. This play is critical because many players set up their shots poorly and give the goalie an easy chance to read the shot. By keeping the puck moving and the goalie guessing, your chances improve immeasurably.

Use Your Teamates - An Assist Is The Same Thing As A Goal!
Team scoring is a critical part of your shooting. Look for your teammates and consider them every time you shoot. Always make a quick pass to an open man in front of the net if he is in a better scoring situation. From the point shoot for your teammates.

Scoring is more than shooting. Open your mind to team scoring and smart shooting if you have the puck. If you don't have it, go hard to the net, face the play and be ready to shoot quickly.

Have Fun and remember to HIT THE NET!