How to Improve PP% in the Offensive Zone Using Small Area Games

How to Improve PP% in the Offensive Zone Using Small Area Games
These seven small area game examples are ready to be worked into your practice today.

In 2020, with the WHL shut down, I ended up putting my skills coach hat back on and went to work. During the COVID stoppage, smaller group training sessions in our province were allowed. During my training sessions, we always finished with small area games. I had to find games that adhered to our provincial COVID-19 guidelines and prevented close contact. I found a Swiss 4-vs-2 game on Ice Hockey Systems that I modified to ensure the players stayed clear of each other. The game was great for promoting good puck movement to create scoring opportunities. Also, your defenders need to make reads and have good stick placement. This got me thinking: what kind of small area games can I modify or create to develop the power play in the offensive zone?

When you watch successful power plays in the offensive zone you see certain characteristics:

  • They make plays under pressure.
  • There is cohesion within the units and they can adjust on the fly.
  • They are predatory and are always ready to pass/shoot.
  • Players are quick to support and create outlets (with possession or on retrievals).
  • They have the confidence to make the play.

On the other side of the coin, teams that struggle in the offensive zone suffer from one or all of these issues:

  • Overanalyzing – Players have been given so much structure that they can’t make the read and execute the play that has been given to them. Instead of organically supporting their teammate they need to “stay where they are supposed to” or not sure where to go in case things don’t go as planned.
  • Over handling – When players handle the puck in front of their body as opposed to having the puck ready on the hip or having to handle the puck one more time before passing.
  • Not Ready for Pucks – Sticks are up in the air or players are “surprised” that they receive the puck and handle the puck as opposed to passing or shooting it.
  • Under confident – They don’t want to make the “wrong” play so they hold onto the puck or move it around the perimeter too slow.

I started throwing the small area games together and I wanted to create games that promoted:

  • Support – Helping under pressure and finding the open ice.
  • Passing – Increasing passing accuracy and reaction time to make the pass.
  • Deception – Fake passes and shots as well as increasing peripheral awareness by “looking off” passes.
  • Rotation – Making rotations more organic and eliminating the guessing game.
  • Using the back of the net – Adding another angle of attack while players above work to find seams.

These seven small area game examples are ready to be worked into your practice today . . .



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Scott Dutertre

Scott Dutertre is a professional hockey coach based in Saskatoon, SK. He has been a Skating and Skills Coach for 24 years in addition to coaching junior and college hockey. He is a National Skating and Skills Coach for Ice Hockey Australia and has trained countless professional hockey players. Scott is currently Assistant Coach of the Tulsa Oilers in the ECHL, and was recently the Associate Coach for the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL. He can be found at

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