Closing the Gap on Defense
Gap control is essential if you want to be a good all-around hockey player. It’s true that defensemen will be using this skill more often than forwards, but everyone should know how to properly close the gap.
Closing the gap is important at every level. Even if you are playing pickup hockey in Toronto, you should be trying to get better at gap control. In fact, you could even say that it is more important to focus on gap control at the pickup and youth levels since it is such an essential skill to have.
One of the most common mistakes that younger hockey players make is allowing opposing players to have far too much of a gap in front of them. When opposing players see a gap like that in front of them, their eyes light up as they know that they could end up with a great scoring opportunity.
The reason why youth players leave that large gap in front of them is because they worry about opposing players skating by them when they close the gap. This can very easily turn into a bad habit since these players will try to master playing with that large gap. It’s better to get beaten a few times and learn to adjust than continue to leave the gap open.
The two keys to closing the gap on defense are positioning and timing. You want to put your body and your stick in positions that force the opponent to the outside, away from your goal. You’ll also want to stay close enough to put pressure on the opponent while also throwing them out of rhythm. The key to this is timing when you push towards them and when you back off to support your teammates.
Just remember that closing the gap on defense is always better than leaving the gap open.