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In this month’s player development feature, pick up a variety of essential save techniques that will go a long way towards boosting the back end of your defense. With Syracuse coach Kevin Donahue as your guide, learn about goaltender tips and tricks that you can start implementing immediately with your own netminders.
Tips & Tricks: Goalie Save Techniques
Soft Top Hands – For effective goaltending, the overall emphasis should be placed on the top hand and having soft top hands. Don’t grab the stick with a death grip. This could come back to haunt goalies on rebounds. Therefore, your hands must be out and away from the body.
Hands Together – Another key is to use the bottom hand together WITH the top hand (versus having a dominant bottom hand). For example, if you go for saves using a dominant bottom hand, you may have a slower save reaction time or place too much emphasis in one area. Your hands also must be comfortable and relaxed.
Follow with the Feet – As for your feet, the key here is to make sure they are following the hands. Coach Donahue always tells his players that the hands move first but the feet follow. It’s essential that you follow with the feet.
Lateral Movement – In the past, coaches used to teach attacking the ball. However, this tactic stopped about 10 years ago. Quite simply, shooters are more accurate and faster, and we realized that most goalies weren’t getting to the corner pipe as much. This is why most feet movements now are lateral (or sideways).
Trail Leg Tips – In the video below, you will notice how the goalie brings his trail leg in right away. Young goalies might leave their trail leg behind. However, this opens up the five-hole and can make them off balance, especially on low shots. By bringing that trail leg, you create a “leg, stick, leg” wall.
Tips for Making Saves Down Low
When it comes to making saves down low, one of the biggest things that goaltenders do wrong is trying to catch the ball. This is not a habit you want your goalies to get accustomed to as a lot of bad things can happen.
For instance, the bottom hand often moves back behind the player and forces the shoulders to turn. Since the goalie is now sideways, it’s really easy for the ball to go in the goal in this position. Plus, if you try to “catch” the ball high, the stick gets particularly small. The biggest surface area is when the hands are out front and the shoulders are back.
On low saves, make sure the feet follow and be in the biggest possible position. It’s also important to get a proper angle with the stick on low shots so that the ball hits the stick and comes right back down. A bad angle could lead to shots rolling up on you and ultimately into the cage.