You have probably heard the term "cycling" before. Cycling is an important concept to understand, especially if you are a forward. Cycling is a strategy used in the offensive zone to maintain your team's control of the puck. In order to cycle effectively, your players must keep their feet moving and their heads on a swivel. In a nutshell, cycling is performed by moving the puck along the boards down low as you and your linemates rotate in and out of the corner, slot, and top of the circle while the defenders give chase. The goal is to protect the puck and keep it moving so that the defenders are forced to chase you and your linemates. Eventually, the defenders will tire out or one of your players will open up for a pass in a shooting lane.
There are a few things to keep in mind that will help you cycle the puck effectively:
- Keep Your Head Up – You should always have your head up in every situation, but it's crucial when you're cycling. Keeping track of your linemates and the opposing team's defenders is the best way to anticipate plays before they develop. Keeping your head up will also allow you to protect yourself when your opponents try to line you up for a check.
- Move Your Feet – It won't do you any good to stand in one place and pass the puck back and forth with your linemates. A sitting target is easy for any player to defend against, but a moving target is always an offensive threat. Have you ever noticed that it's much more tiring when you're stuck on a long defensive shift than it is when you're out on a long offensive shift? Use it to your advantage by making the other team skate hard to keep up and you'll find yourself with some great scoring chances.
- Communicate – One of the best ways to keep your awareness up is to communicate with your linemates. Let them know when a defender is on their tail or when they should brace for a hit. Call for drop passes, let them know if the puck is in their skates, and give them a heads up when you're heading to the slot for a quick shot. Sometimes it's best not to call out every move you're going to make so that you can keep the defenders guessing, but use your best judgment and communicate whenever it's beneficial.
- Use Good Body Positioning – Good body positioning is the key to puck-protection. You should use your legs and arms to ward off defenders and keep your body between them and the puck. Protecting the puck does not require you to do a bunch of fancy stick-work in order to maintain control. It comes down to keeping yourself and the puck in a position where you have the upper hand as you maneuver.
Remember that you shouldn't cycle just to cycle – do it with purpose. The point of cycling is to create scoring opportunities by maintaining possession of the puck with good puck-protection, quick feet, and great communication. As soon as the defenders make a mistake, and you or one of your linemates gets into scoring position, make the most of the opportunity and get the puck to the net.