The World Juniors isn’t just an annual tradition filled with drama, for coaches, it’s also a great way to study different ways of playing the game.
On Sunday, the Czech Republic upset Russia, a country that had just beaten Team USA. The highly-skilled Russians weren’t just beaten, they were shut out, as the Czechs employed a stifling neutral zone strategy.
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It was an amazing defensive game by the Czech Republic, and to be honest, it was an exciting game from the start to finish. Maybe the biggest upset in this World Junior Championship and a big bounce-back win from the Czechs after an early loss to Sweden.
Let’s take a look at how the Czech Republic was able to beat one of the tournament favourites.
Two neutral-zone forechecks
The Czechs used two different neutral-zone forechecks against Russia, the 1-2-2 and a 3-2. They used a typical 1-2-2 forecheck on most line changes or regroups, but switched to a 3-2 forecheck that is commonly used in Europe on controlled breakouts.
If we look at the video below, we can see F1 staying high and waiting for the defenceman to make the first pass. F2 and F3 are tight on the opponent, not giving them much time and space.
Take a look at how F2/F3 and the strong-side defenceman are gapping up after the first pass. It gives Russia has no options at all.
The first difference with the 3-2 forecheck is F1 is right in the middle of F2 and F3. They are high in the zone and they are all skating backwards on the same layer.
When the opposing defenceman is making the pass, F2/F3 jump on the puck carrier. F1 is getting closer and the strong-side defenceman is reading the play. The strong-side defenceman has two options, gapping up or continuing backwards.