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Seven Keys to Defending a One-on-one Along the Boards, by Enio Sacilotto

When your team loses possession of the puck in a hockey game, your players must have the mentality to pressure the opponent with the puck as quickly as possible so your team can get the puck back.  It is more fun to play with the puck than without!  The terms we like to use are “offence from defence” and “play defence to go on offence.”

There are many game situations where players will be in a one-on-one battle and must work to get the puck back.  This article and video will look at the key points to successfully gain possession of the puck in a one-on-one battle along the boards.

1. When pursuing the puck carrier, you must skate to him from an angle rather than going straight to him. If the puck carrier stops, you must immediately stop with him, and your body must be even with his. We call this “stopping on the puck” instead of skating past the opponent and giving him space. Stopping on the puck will take the carrier’s skating lane away and o his passing lane.

2. After stopping on the puck, you must keep your stick blade on the ice, hold your stick with your top hand only and attempt to strip the opponent of the puck with your blade.  We call this “stick on the puck.”  Your stick blade, on the ice, with your top hand on your stick, will mirror the puck.  Avoid swinging your stick like a sweep check; your opponent will take advantage and time your swing to avoid being stripped of the puck.  A term we like to use is “elbow in, elbow out – jab the puck.”  Lastly, we use the term “have a long stick.”

3. While trying to get your stick on the puck, you use your peripheral vision and watch his body; the term we use is “body on body.”

4. When you are in a close battle with your opponent, have control of his body, attempting to get your stick on the puck, you can use your free hand to push on the opponent’s hips.  Pushing on his hips helps you throw him off his centre of gravity which he will then lose his balance, allowing you to get control of the puck.

5. Throughout this one-on-one battle, you must maintain defensive side positioning.  An effective way to remember is to tell yourself, “Net-me-man.”  Keeping your body between your net and your opponent will prevent him from taking the lane to your net and giving up a scoring opportunity.

6. When you win the puck, you need to keep possession so your team can go on the attack. You must first refrain from exposing the puck to your opponent, or he will use the stick on the puck to check you and regain puck possession. You want to create a wall between the puck and your opponent.  We call this “protecting the puck.”

7. You need to look around to decide what option to take, skate the puck, pass it to a supporting teammate, or freeze it along the boards and get a whistle.   Players’ common fault is not looking around them and blinding passing the puck.  Making eye contact with your supporting teammate, using verbal communication then passing him the puck is the best way to keep the puck and create offence from defence.

The following video illustrates the seven key points to win the one-on-one battle along the walls.


Enio Sacilotto is President of International Hockey Camps and operates the Mental Edge High-Performance Training. Enio has 39 years of coaching experience (professional hockey in Europe and the Victoria Royals (WHL)). Currently, he coaches at the Burnaby Winter Club Hockey Academy and the Croatian National Men’s team. If you have questions or are interested in his services, contact Enio at or call 604 255 4747. Website: