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Goaltender Insight into 2-on-1 and 2-on-0 Attacker “Cut Back” Deke

Editor’s Note: Today we welcome Tomas Hertz a new contributing author to inGoal Magazine.  Tomas Hertz is a grass roots goaltending coach in Kingston, Ontario.  Tomas has coached goaltenders from Novice House League through the  Minor Midget ‘AAA’ level.  He has been a goaltending guest lecturer at the College of Physical Education, University of Saskatchewan, and holds N.C.C.P.  ADVANCED I certification.  He has taught at different goalie schools including  Jon Elkin’s Goalie School- East , Cooper Goaltending and Mitch Korn’s Specialized Goalie school. He is current a goaltending coach in the Greater Kingston Junior Frontenac’s Minor Hockey Association.

Ice hockey is a game of situations. These situations repeat themselves again, and again, at all levels of competition. The 2-on-1 or 2-on-0 cut back deke is one of several options available to the attackers in these tactical situations. Let us examine this one option in some detail.

When either a 2-on-1 or 2-on-0 develop there are only so many possible options available to the oncoming attackers. The only difference between them is that things at least should be somewhat more difficult in the presence of a defenceman. Let us assume there are no high trailers for triangulation and the goaltender’s mates are back-checking appropriately. Here are the possibilities:

  1. puck carrier shoots directly on net
  2. puck carrier passes to teammate who shoots
  3. puck carrier shoots on net for rebound with hard net drive by teammate
  4. pass and return pass (2-on-0 with wide gap between attackers and goaltender) with shot on net by original puck carrier and finally…
  5. pass with cut back (against the grain) deke to far side of the net
Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas makes a save

photo by Scott Slingsby


Let’s use the example of a right-handed and left-handed shot skating down their natural wings. As soon the odd man rush unfolds the insightful goaltender recognizes the situation and possible tactical options. He/she then establishes appropriate depth and then sculls backward slightly to generate some backwards momentum. As the pass occurs on either 2v1 or 2v0 the goaltender commonly performs a dynamic lateral butterfly slide. This is done to both seal the ice and maintain some vertical coverage against a quick release shot. This situation was usually approached by performing a two-pad slide (i.e. stacking the pads) in days gone by. There is really only one goalie in the world left who does this and that is Martin Brodeur. The problem with the two pad slide is of course the lack of vertical net coverage if you are not right out against the puck and time to recover for 2nd and 3rd shot attempts.

When the goalie begins the modern lateral slide the smart goal-scorer understands that inertia is taking the goalie in one direction and therefore cutting back to the other side makes it difficult for the goaltender to change directions. However, today’s goalie has very sharp skate edges and an excellent ‘down game’ (i.e. great mobility on the knees). Hence, when the attacker cuts back to the weak side of the net, the goalie quickly attempts to dig in the skate edge and push in the opposite direction. If the attacker is quick and has good reach with his twig the goalie will often lose this battle.

As recently as the 2010 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships I witnessed two of the possible five options on a 2-on-one. In Team Canada’s game vs. Latvia a touch saucer pass from Hall to Kadri resulted in a quick release shot right under the crossbar (option #1). In the New Year’s Eve game between Team Canada and Team USA what began as a 2-on-2 became a 2-on-one with Eberle performing the cutback deke and scoring on the American goaltender Campbell.

What options are available to the goaltender?

  1. If you anticipate the cutback early enough you can fake or minimize the butterfly slide in an effort to make the attacker believe that you have fallen for the direct shot and then you will get him going the other way. However, this is NOT necessarily a high percentage option and should be practiced many times when doing 2v1, 2v0 and 3v0s in practice. If he doesn’t fall for your fake he/she will shoot directly and surely score.
  2. You can play it pure with a lateral slide and hope for the best as you cut back on your edge and maybe stick out your leg and get him.
  3. A full length or partial poke check may be an option but the margin for error is minimal. I sincerely believe that the stick option only works best when two criteria are met. (1) the attacker is coming from the goalie’s trapper to blocker side allowing the goalie to use the backhand part of the stick blade in a position of power and (2) the attack angle is more horizontal ( similar to a net drive) than vertical in nature.
  4. Use the two pad slide and essentially chop-block the attacker’s legs out from under him. However, if he has great hand-eye coordination and stick reach it could become a highlight clip with the attacker flying through the air if his stick and the puck have gotten around the goalie’s pads.

As noted, hockey is a game of situations and truly elite goaltending is far more than just great technical ability. Although it takes years to see situations unfold in your mind even before they develop in front of you (just like chess) the goaltenders who learn these scenarios the fastest and minimize errors and poor outcomes are the ones who move on to the proverbial next level. The rest just fade away. Remember this situation, practice all the outcomes and sooner or later you will make an incredible save and achieve hero status!

About The Author

Tomas Hertz, MD BA

Tomas Hertz has been a contributing author to InGoal Magazine since 2010. He operated  "No Holes, No Goals Goaltending" in Kingston, Ontario for a decade and worked with developing goalies in the G.K.M.H.A. and K.A.M.H.A. He remains active as a timekeeper in the O.M.H.A. - O.W.H.A., the O.J.H.L. (Kingston Voyageurs), and the O.U.A.A. (R.M.C. Palladins). 


  1. Steve

    What about staying on your feet if you read the cut back?

  2. Tomas Hertz,MD, BA

    You can do whatever you think is best and always play to your strengths. However, with lateral attacks consider the following guidlines: (1) If the pass is made above the level of the face-off dots you should be able to get a cross with a powerful T-push and remain on your feet and set. (2) Alternatively, if the pass is made below the face-off dots, you are more likely to get across the crease with a butterfly slide. Standing up would also result in poor goals along the ice with a quick release shot which is one of the options. At least with the slide you have sealed the ice!!Whether you stay down or you have time to rise subsequent to the slide depends on how close the attacker is to you.