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Off-square Rebounds and the “Snow-Angel” Save

Off-square Rebounds and the “Snow-Angel” Save

Snow Angel Goalie

Winnipeg Jets Goaltender Chris Mason extends further, and faster, than he could otherwise by employing the “snow-angel” technique. Ken DeNardo photo

Benoit Allaire says, “If you focus on technique and your technique is perfect, you will have success.” I definitely believe in developing proper technique and I believe in the comment by Allaire; however, there are times when proper form is of little value and I just want the goaltender to battle and make the save regardless of how it is done. It is with this in mind that I wish to discuss the situation of an off-square rebound and the use of the “snow-angel” technique as a desperation save.

In a perfect world a goaltender would not create any rebounds subsequent to a shot. This is however not realistic and hence we teach our students how to both minimize and deal with these rebounds in the appropriate fashion. One common situation encountered is a point shot with net front traffic. In this situation a goaltender commonly assumes a butterfly position to prevent cheap goals along the ice in case visual attachment and tracking is impossible, or difficult at best. A shot is taken and a pad save is made often with the creation of a rebound to the side of the goalie. Depending on your team’s defensive strategy in front of the net, an opponent may be left unchecked with a great scoring opportunity off this rebound.

The ideal manner with which to address this situation (a post-save response) would involve several technical components including the following: (1) The goaltender would put his head-on-a-swivel to regain visual attachment to the puck immediately (2) A pivot of the shoulders, torso, hips and pads would place goaltender back on a square line of attack to the puck albeit off angle and (3) a dynamic butterfly slide (power slide) would be performed to get back on angle making a blocking type save in tight zone play possible. By doing all this, the goalie stays upright, which provides maximum vertical net coverage. It also allows him to stay in control and potentially battle with further scoring opportunities with a solid down game. This however is predicated on the fact that enough time is available for said goaltender to perform all the biomechanical elements prior to the release of the second shot by the opportunistic attacker at the side of the net!

Often criticized for employing the "snow-angel," Roberto Luongo has been taught, and practices, this technique to extend his backward reach along the ice in desperation situations. David Hutchison photo.

The ‘snow-angel’ is a reactionary desperation save when the goaltender decides there is insufficient time to perform the above noted sequence. The goaltender plays the odds of sealing the ice by dropping prone on the stomach and flaring the pads out as far as necessary, or as allowed based on flexibility and anatomical restrictions, and hopes that time and space limitations prevent anything more than a quick one-timer along the ice. If the snow-angel is performed to the goaltender’s trapper side the glove should be kept open, somewhat off the ice and out in front of the body. This sometimes allows the goaltender to make a great glove save which always becomes a highlight reel favourite! Although more difficult on the blocker side, the arm can be slightly raised with the posterior surface of the paddle facing outward and occasionally knocking down a low shot. It is true that choosing the “snow-angel” save basically leaves the goaltender down and out for further play (something I have always referred to as the “floppy fish” position) but you can only ask so much of your goalie. Hopefully teammates arrive after the second save and knock the opponent down hard.

Danny Taylor of the Abbottsford Heat taught a simple drill to me a couple of years ago for this situation. Ask the goaltender to assume a butterfly position in the middle of the blue paint and slightly off centre to one side. Only one puck is required! Upon giving the command “go” the goalie drops into the prone snow-angel formation with as much flare as possible maintaining the pads flush with the ice. The instructor takes a quick shot along the ice a short distance from the goalie. The purpose is not to score but to practice the mechanics. Once proficient, the instructor may add a second shot to the drill. This could be either a chest or pad save from a shooter in front of the goalie following by the off-square shot mimicking the rebound. This should only be done when the goalie is comfortable with mechanics and technique in the initial basic drill.

In conclusion, being a technically sound goaltender is an important element in trying to succeed in ice hockey. There are however some goaltenders who rely too much on technique and become robotic in their movements. The only thing that matters is stopping the black projectile and sometimes you can throw technique out the window. The “snow-angel” is a reactionary desperation save. We have all seen it be used with success in elite play and it can work for you as well.


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. Mike

    This save is also used in breakaways a lot. Just watch the complete shootout highlights on, you will see it all the time. My favorite was Backstrom doing it with the added last ditch effort of lifting the foot up at the last minute and stopping the puck with the outside heel of the skate, crazy.

    I have also heard it called the A-frame save, a pretty good name I think.

    I am trying to get my 14 year old son to start trying this at practices. It seems a fairly complex movement that requires commitment and timing, therefore I would say it falls completely into the category of technique. Yes, its a desperation save with little chance of recovery, but its a very specific move used in specific circumstances, so how isn’t that technique?

    I remember reading (probably on this site!)Hasek explaining even his barrel roll was a planned out save that he deployed in very specific circumstances, so that was technique, too.

    I would never disagree about the need to battle. That is first and foremost in the goalies mind, but there are very few saves I can think of that aren’t technical.

  2. Tomas Hertz

    I think your argument is a valid one especially considering the fact that I provided a drill which can be used to get better at this. Maybe in retrospect I should have referred to these type of things as unconventional techniques since you dont practice these things often and they are generally not taught at summer camps. I have a few other things to write about which are unconventional but quite fun to do in practice especially with the younger guys.

    I remember when Boris Becker started diving across the grass at center court, and after that the German tennis federation started teaching this to all their young players.

    Yes…used very often on breakaways and I love the little pad lift at the end. My son made one of those a few years ago in a Kitchener tournament and it was fun to talk about it on the way home. I think we lost the game ?

    Love the Hasek roll and I have taught it.

  3. Jocelyn C.

    Desperation saves happens all the time but less and less with time… younger goalies learn to be too much mechanical these days. Instinct should still be a major part of any goalie’s game. A good mastering of technique is great, but sometimes you HAVE to react to specific plays when technique alone won’t work; so you have to rely on pure reaction and instinct and you end up with the kind of save that make people talk about…

  4. Mike

    Tomas, more articles on unconventional saves and drills would be great.

    I hadn’t thought of the Boris Becker diving volley for years, that is a good example.

    One could make a pie chart of every known goalie save, with the frequency of usage of the common saves and then the slivers of unconventional saves like the two pad stack and the blocker side open paddle diving save.

    Speaking of unconventional, or downright weird, how about Brodeur the other night with that leaping heel kick? I think in soccer its called a “scorpion”. Don’t try that at home, kids.

  5. Tomas Hertz

    yes Mike….it is called the scorpion kick. Go on YouTube and type in Rene Higuita and scorpion kick and you will see something really sick!!! One of my sons showed it to me. Awesome !!!

  6. Lauren

    A little late to the party here, but I echo everyone’s sentiments. Good article, very good points! I just had a game in which I was frustrated because I felt like I was “flopping” a lot, but in retrospect, this is exactly what was happening. I felt like I should have been getting there “in position” but you’re right there are times when you just don’t have the time for that. Thanks for the article!