playoff breakdown

Coldham Playoff Breakdowns | NCAA Frozen 4 Notre Dame vs Minnesota Duluth

In Hockey Development, Tactics by Mike Coldham

Image courtesy of the Saint Paul Patch

The University of Minnesota-Duluth (UMD) defeated the University of Notre Dame (UND) 2-1 in this year’s Frozen Four Championship Game.

Strategy & Tactics

Both teams played a sound defensive game, defending the neutral zone and protecting the middle of the ice. Players on both teams demonstrated inside out control (angling) and played the body first in the neutral zone. Both teams struggled to enter and exit the neutral zone with speed and puck control. In the video highlights there are a number of dumps (soft dumps and hard rims) and chips behind the D to get the puck in deep to recover and establish an offensive attack. Both teams struggled in the execution of their puck recovery play. I expected to see better execution in the puck recovery play. This tight checking game resulted in a lot of forced puck turnovers.

Both teams overloaded (outnumbered) in their defensive zone strong side puck battles to play five against three down low. Neither team established much of an attack down low below the goal line. UND seemed reluctant to have their 3rd player high in the OZ drop down to support the puck offensively and rotate the 3rd player high. UMD on the other hand would have their 3rd man high support the puck offensively. I expected to see more chips into open ice below the hash marks on both sides of the ice down low to create more time and space and support puck possession and control.

The game featured very few odd player rush situations because both teams had their 3rd player high provide back pressure support through the NZ into the DZ.

Both teams had five players back in the DZ and defended with speed and physicality. There wasn’t much room in the offensive zone for either team.

Both teams were very well coached on faceoffs in all three zones. Both teams were able to play fast because of their technical hockey skills and knowledge of how to play with and without the puck in all three zones.

Special Teams

Notre Dame scored their one and only goal on a powerplay. There is a highlight of the goal below that shows the use of the width and depth of the ice surface and quality puck movement through the neutral zone.

UMD had several PP chances but failed to convert against an excellent UND PK (+85%). Both teams ran a conventional umbrella (3 up top) PP. I was expecting to see more puck and player movement on the PP with an anchor down low to isolate on a defender. I was hoping to see more give and go in 2-1 and 3-2 situations.

Both teams struggled to enter and exit the NZ on the PP with speed and puck control. The best offensive teams enter and exit the NZ even strength and on the PP with speed and puck control.

Aspiring College/University Players

For young players aspiring to play University Hockey the video highlights below are recommended viewing. The highlights give players a chance to see areas of the game that must be developed to play at this elite level. Here are key development areas that are obvious in these types of playoff games.

  • Technical hockey skills
  • Physical strength and conditioning (maximum potential)
  • Ability to dominate in one on one and group puck battles along the boards
  • Strength on the puck and effectiveness in traffic
  • Forcing turnovers
  • Forwards must be able to play the down low game below the hash marks
  • Play with speed and physicality; play the body first then the puck in all one on one challenges
  • Play 200 feet of the ice surface consistently; take pride in being a two way player with a high work rate and strong transition game. This final championship game was a hard fought physical contest. The players on both teams demonstrated their commitment to excellence.

The 3 videos shared for those interested:

1. Goals and Physical Play

2. Special Teams Play

3. Tactics in all 3 zones

For many of these players they will not go on to play professional hockey. For many of these players they have enjoyed the opportunity to obtain a quality education and compete at a level most only dream about. For most of these players they have learned character skills to be successful in life from their University Hockey experience and it doesn’t get any better than that.

About the Author
Mike Coldham

Mike Coldham

Mike has over 25 years of coaching experience as a Technical Mentor Coach of people in Business and Sports. Now retired after 35 years of public service, Mike created the TLPF website to support the development of competitive minor hockey players. Mike works with competitive hockey players to help them learn how to play faster which requires tactical knowledge and skills.


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