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Getting the Transition Game Rolling

August 7, 2011 General No Comments

Getting the transition game rolling
By Wayne Anderson
Oct 29, 2001, 20:48



Fast counter (5 on 5)

The quickness with which your team transfers its thoughts and actions from offense to defense, and visa versa, will determine the amount of games that your team wins and loses. That’s how important this aspect of the game—the transition game—is. In ice hockey, the area between the bluelines is known as the neutral zone. This, ideally, is where we want the transition from defense to offense to happen. In roller hockey, the situation is a bit different. 

It’s different on wheels

On wheels, you want the transition game to happen between the tops of the faceoff circles. If you can counter and regroup faster than your opponent, you will find your team having a lot of odd-man rushes. An odd-man rush, of course, is when your offense outnumbers your opponent’s defense. And no disrespect to the women, either, it’s just an expression!

Odd man rushes will win lots of games. The best way I can describe the process and the quickness needed to make this transition happen is that there should be a switch in your players’ heads. One side of the switch should say “offense,” and the other side should say “defense.” When the switch is set in the middle—balanced, if you will—it can be said to be in the “transition” mode.

Think of flicking a light switch, and you have just imagined the minute amount of time it should take you to adjust your approach to the game. This adjustment is both mental and physical, and will consist of individual players either attacking the puck/ball carrier and scrambling into the prescribed defensive positions, or trying to get the puck/ball moving toward the offensive end and scrambling to get into the attack triangle.

Some of the key points that determine just how quickly your team will make these adjustments are the skill level of your team, the aggressiveness of your opponent, and the size of the rink.

Here are three very useful drills that a team can use, and which if practiced often can help add up to a winning game plan.

Fast Counterattack

Fast counter (4 on 4)

D1 makes an immediate pass to W1 (on a tight curl or stationary pattern), who then relays the puck/ball ahead, or makes a good dump-in play.

This should be used in a tough, close-checking game or when your defense is not considered to be particularly strong (especially in stickhandling and skating skills). This counter is also very effective in the roller hockey world because the rink surfaces are usually smaller than those of our colder counterpart. This counter is terrific against a heavy two man forecheck from your opponents, or as a “safety” first move by an unsure defense.

Key Points: The defense must make a safe play (get it out for sure). The forwards must get into position fast, give a realistic target and must relay the puck/ball ahead quickly, or dump it in.


Teaching Sequence and Drills

• Multipurpose Drill: 2-on-0.

• 5-on-0 from faceoff at center.

• 5-on-2 from the faceoff.

• 5-on-2 + 1 forechecker or backchecker.

• 5-on-5 from center faceoff.

Make this last drill a controlled scrimmage designed to practice fast counters, plus a neutral zone defense strategy.


Over And Up

D1 makes a sharp stick-to-stick pass to his/her partner, D2. D2 moves up on a rush or passes to a fast breaking forward.

This should be used when one D is a skilled player with good skating and stickhandling skills. This counter is extremely effective when the opposition is not aggressively forechecking you, leaving time and space available for you to headman.

Key Points: The defensive partnerships need to work well together. The one point that makes the Over-and-Up work is that once the D gets the puck/ball, he must skate it up and not stand still. The forwards must get into position quickly, read the situation, then react without forcing the D into an unsafe play. Forwards must burst into the openings—especially the off-wing (away from the puck/ball).


Teaching Sequence and Drills

• 1-on-0: a D (passing) to a F (shooting).

• D-to-D-to-C passing drill (C does a tight curl).

• 5-on-0 from center surface.

• 5-on-2 breakout: turn back at opposition’s defensive zone, go Over and Up, Attack 4-on-2.

• 5-on-2 Breakout—Attack—Repeat, with Over and Up play.


Over and up (5 on 5)

Over and up (4 on 4)


This concept is used to gain time and space, and build an attack involving 4 (in 5-on-5) or 3 (in 4-on-4) players moving at top speed through the neutral zone.

This concept is best demonstrated by watching tapes of the NHL Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames, and the Soviet and other European teams. It can also be seen by watching the LA Blades and the Buffalo Stampede of the RHI.

This concept requires good skating and puck/ball-control defense. It should only be introduced after the first two concepts mentioned previously are mastered.

Key Points: The D-to-D pass must be safe and accurate. D1 moves to the middle only when there is no pressure. The Regroup will not work if the D has to deke or evade an opponent. If this happens, the rest of the team must read and react with a different concept. The timing of the forwards is vital and they must burst when they move up the surface. See figure 3 a, b.


Teaching Sequence and Drills

• D to the middle, pass to curling forward or stretching forward or center deep. Make sure it is practiced from both sides as a 1-on-0 shooting drill.

• 3-on-0 drill using one wing and two D.

• 4-on-0 drill using two forwards and two D.

• 5- or 4- on 2, 3, 4 or 5: Breakout—Attack—Regroup and attack again. l

Regroup (5 on 5)

Regroup (4 on 4)


Wayne Anderson is Managing Director of Huron Hockey’s roller hockey schools.


This first appeared in the 06/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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