Stepping Up in the Defensive Triangle

By Laura Warner

Did you know that “stepping up” in the triangle can prevent dozens of goals over the course of a season?

Stepping up in the triangle is what a defender must do when an offensive player tries to drive around the center.

All too often, defence stay planted on the top of the crease.

The problem with standing near the top of the crease is you allow the attacking player to drive to the Hot Spot before you challenge her.

Other times, defenders think their job is to “mark” the offensive player(s) set up on the low post:

Again, the problem with this strategy is that you leave the Hot Spot open for the forward to drive into. Most goal scorers will thank you for picking this strategy and take full advantage of the open lane to the Hot Spot.

Coaches sometimes ask their defenders to mark the low post players because they know goals can be scored on the one time shot. I agree.

However, there is a rule that, in the defensive triangle, you can’t cover everything. If you cover the low post, you leave the Hot Spot open.

In my experience, the one-time shot is a lower percentage shot than the drive to the Hot Spot. That’s why I recommend that defenders step up in the triangle and take away the Hot Spot.

How to Step up in the Triangle

A defender should step up at the exact moment the attacking player starts to drive around your defensive center:

Tips For Stepping Up

  • Step up early: One of the biggest mistakes defenders make is they step up too late. If you wait too long to step up, the forward catches you flat footed and burns around you to the Hot Spot.(In this picture, the Finnish defender stepped up late.)
  • Step up “inside out”: If you step up towards the outside of the ice and then turn in, you are inviting the forward to attack the middle of your triangle. If you step up towards the middle of the ice and then turn out, you are inviting the forward to drive wide, which is your goal. Check out the next two diagrams:”Outside In”

    “Inside Out”

Using this aggressive style of defence does leave the low post open. It is important that your goalie knows the one-time shot is her responsibility.

Also, if the other team does decide to pass to the low post, defenders have to be lightning quick in getting back down to the corner.

The general rule is: give them the pass, prevent them from driving. See below for a killer video clip of me demonstrating stepping up: