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Briere: Communication and Positioning Key to Short Outlet Passes

Verbal and Non-Verbal Cues Essential for a Great Outlet Pass and Breakout Success

USHL Goalie Coach Steve Briere playing the puck

Steve Briere, currently a goaltending coach in the USHL, plays the puck during his days as a professional goalie.

This article was written by Steve Briere, Goaltending Coach for the Omaha Lancers of the USHL, Topeka RoadRunners of the NAHL, and founder of Briere’s Goalie Schools. It was originally published for InGoal subscribers, so sign up for the FREE weekly newsletter to get premium content in advance, and for your chance to ask NHL goalies questions in the weekly Ask a Pro segment.

As we mentioned in our last segment, most coaches want a goalie that can “play the puck.” However, they rarely communicate exactly what playing the puck means. The mission of this series of articles is to clearly define “playing the puck” and to outline the fundamental steps necessary for building a strong puck-playing goaltender.

In the previous article we began by laying the foundation of all puck-playing with communication, and identified puck possession as its core objective. We introduced a simple stop, set-up and leave for the defense. As our goaltenders develop confidence and strength, we progress to short outlet passes in the defensive zone from goaltender to defensemen, wingers, or possibly even the center.

Communication becomes even more important as the play gets a bit more complicated.

Both verbal and non-verbal cues are essential for a great outlet pass by the goaltender. The first step for the coaching staff and defense core is to come up with an appropriate verbal cue for playing the puck, such as calling the goalie’s name, calling for a pass, or another verbal cue. The non-verbal cues relate to the positioning of the pass recipient.

Ideally we want the recipient to have feet facing up-ice with the stick on the ice, and be making eye contact with the goaltender.

It might seem funny to mention a Wayne Gretzky quote in a goalie magazine, but at this point I think it’s appropriate for understanding the second segment of playing the puck. Gretzky once said that he and Yari Kurri would try to create 2-on-1 situations in order to gain the advantage and generate opportunities. That same philosophy applies to goalies playing the puck with defensemen in the defensive zone. In the next three clips we will see our goaltender and defense form a 2-on-1 against the attacking forechecker, creating a quick outlet pass opportunity and keeping possession of the puck.

Clip 1
In this first clip the goaltender identifies a puck that he can reach. Reading that the goalie is going to get to the puck, the first defenseman releases the forechecker and changes his path towards the goaltender, making his way to weak-side corner.

At the same time, the strong-side defenseman goes hard to the strong-side corner and opens up for a pass, producing a 2-on-1 play on both sides of the net against the attacking forechecker:

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Clip 2
In this situation the forechecker has a jump on the puck-side defenseman, and we again see the goalie recognize that he can reach the puck. The weak-side defenseman sees the goalie is going to make it to the puck first and goes hard to the opposite corner, verbally calling for the pass and non-verbally positioning himself below the goal line with his stick on the ice and feet aimed up-ice:

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Clip 3
This third example works well to depict the progression we have developed throughout the first two articles on playing the puck.

Similar to the previous two clips, our goaltender identifies a puck that he can get to, goes out hard and fast to the puck, and stops it for his defense. He then sees that the forechecker has a jump on the defense. At the same time the defensemen determine that the goalie is going to get out to the puck first, position themselves below the goal line with their sticks on the ice, and call for the pass.

The goaltender makes a great tape-to-tape pass and the breakout is initiated:

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Puck-playing goaltenders can be a huge advantage for the defense, but they can also have an adverse effect if their decisions are not consistent or they try to do too much. Make sure to keep reading InGoal Magazine, as next time we will present examples of goaltenders making these mistakes, causing havoc and uncertainty.


Briere's Goalie School logo
For more insights and resources from Steve Briere and Briere’s Goalie School check out his site at www.Brieresgoalieschool.com, they offer a complete range of training tools for goalies of all ages and ability. Elite and Prospect Goalie Camps/ Clinics, Summer Camps in locations around the US and Canada and UK,  Video Instruction through BGS tv for remote learning , The Complete Game DVD series, or visit the Briere’s  Goalie Training Facility in Huntsville Alabama.  Briere’s Goalie School strives to be your year round goalie coach.

About The Author

Steve Briere

For more insights and resources from Steve Briere and Briere’s Goalie School check out his site at www.Brieresgoalieschool.com, they offer a complete range of training tools for goalies of all ages and ability. Elite and Prospect Goalie Camps/ Clinics, Summer Camps in locations around the US and Canada and UK, Video Instruction through BGS tv for remote learning , The Complete Game DVD series, or visit the Briere’s Goalie Training Facility in Huntsville Alabama. Briere’s Goalie School strives to be your year round goalie coach.