A two-goal first period on Friday night helped lead Colgate to a 3-1 victory over St. Cloud State. I mentioned in my game recap that both goals came as a result of defensive breakdowns by the St. Cloud defense under pressure, and thought it might be worth taking a closer look at what went wrong.
When we talk about applying pressure on the defense, Colgate's second goal was what people generally think of. The puck goes behind the St. Cloud net, a Colgate forechecker forces a turnover with a check, and then makes a quick pass to the front of the net for a goal.
But the first goal of the game came as the result of a different, more subtle kind of pressure applied by Colgate: forcing switches. The more an offense can force the opposing defensemen to switch defensive responsibilities on attacking forwards, the more likely it becomes that a miscommunication occurs and somebody breaks free on the offense.
The scene: Colgate picks up the puck in the St. Cloud end and transitions back up the ice. Colgate forward Mike Borkowski(21) brings the puck into the St. Cloud zone along the right wing.
Two things are going to happen on this play that turn this from an innocuous 3-on-3 rush into a goal for Colgate.
First, notice Colgate right wing Joe Wilson(25). He's coming down the right side of the ice with Borkowski, and is temporarily the responsibility of St. Cloud left defenseman Ben Storm(4). But Wilson will cut across the ice and fill a lane on the left wing, forcing the two St. Cloud defensemen(Storm and Jarrod Rabey(2)) to switch responsibilities on Wilson. You can actually see Storm pointing out that he's staying with Borkowski, necessitating the switch, but Rabey misses it and rather than picking up Wilson, he stays to provide support on the puck carrier. It's a mistake for sure, but it's the type of mistake that comes from the opposition applying pressure by forcing the defense into a tough spot.
Second, Borkowski changes his speed, decelerating a bit as he enters the zone to change the gap between himself and Storm, and open up a passing lane.
The results is this:
Not exactly ideal if you're St. Cloud.
Notice the gap between Borkowski and Storm gives Borkowski a perfect passing lane to Wilson. Both St. Cloud defensemen are playing the shooter, and after a fake shot, Borkowski just has to slide an easy pass to Wilson.
....and it's 1-0 Colgate.
For full video of the goal, watch NCHC.tv's game highlights. Wilson's goal begins at about the eight second mark.