In the recent USA Hockey’s Rocky Mountain Districts I was watching a game at the Bantam AAA level before a game I was about to coach. It was an entertaining game that had Team A up 2-1 with approximately 3 minutes left in the third period in an elimination game. Team B had taken over control and it appeared their tying the game was likely. It seemed only a matter of time.
Then, Team A got the puck into Team B’s zone and applied some pressure. A player on Team A came up with the puck in the corner and passed to a teammate who was uncovered 15-20 feet away from the net to the goalie’s left. The player shot far side and the puck found the net to make the game 3-1. Players from Team A celebrated as if they just won the Stanley Cup.
The goalie for Team B, who had been playing a very good game by all accounts, should have made the save. His angle was off and the puck was not shot very hard. Basically, the goalie had a mental lapse.
As Team A celebrated I watched Team B’s goalie lay on the ice face-down with his gloves covering his mask as if to hide himself. He laid there for a good thirty seconds. Face-down, I’m sure he was cursing himself thinking he had just lost the game for the team. Finally, he got back to his feet. By the time he was on his skates, the back-up was on the ice skating to the net to relieve the starter.
Three goals allowed on 30+ shots and he was pulled with three minutes left in the game.
Why would a coach pull his starter at such a point in the game? There was enough time to tie the game. Goalie had been playing well. Why pull him?
It was not the goal just allowed, it was the goalie’s reaction.
By lying on the ice in defeat, what was the message relayed to his teammates?
Simply, the game was lost and there was no use in trying to come back.
The back-up was brought in to spark any remaining confidence Team B had. There was no way the starting goalie could remain in if the team had any chance of coming back. As a coach, get him off the ice and let him sulk at the end of the bench.
Goalies must control all emotions and never let their teammates know they are rattled or upset. There can be no signs of “peaks” or “valleys.” Everything must be cool and collected (even after a big save).
If you are scored on, tell the boys you’ll get the next one and mentally prepare yourself for the next save.
Forwards and defense subconsciously feed off the confidence of their goalie. If the goalie seems in-control and confident, chances are they will be too. Team B needed some confidence to get back in the game and the starting goalie was in no position to provide it. Therefore, even though he had a strong game, he had to be pulled.
In the end, Team A won 3-1.
Could Team B have come back if the goalie had simply got up, told his teammates to relax and count on him to make the next save, and them mentally prepared himself to do just that?
Odds are much better than what actually happened. The goalie lost the game for the team by lying on the ice telling everyone in the rink he should have made the save.
There are two people who either help or hinder a team by their body language and demeanor during a game: the head coach and goalie. Being a goaltender comes with the responsibility of giving your team the best chance to win and it all begins with how you conduct yourself before and during the game.
If you are scored on, your teammates have to know you will make the next save. So… keep your head and shoulders up, relax, and tell your teammates not to worry because you will make that next save. This will allow your teammates to play with more confidence which should lead to more team success.