In my game recap of Saturday night's St. Cloud State win over Miami, I talked about an impressive play by Husky rookie defenseman Will Borgen to set up St. Cloud State's second, and ultimately game-winning goal.
We haven't done one of these picture-by-picture breakdowns of a specific play yet this season, so this goal felt like a good time to do one.
To set the stage, there was just over four minutes remaining in the second period, and the game is tied 1-1. Miami has just taken a shot from the right point that Charlie Lindgren stops with his blocker. The rebound kicks up in the air and Will Borgen(20), gloves it down and begins bringing the puck up the ice in transition.
As he skates the puck out of the zone, Borgen tries to make an outlet pass to Robby Jackson(23). Jackson mishandles the pass initially, but so does Miami's Jack Roslovic(96), and Jackson ends up with the puck. Borgen continues to follow the play up the ice on the rush.
Looking at that picture, Miami would seem to have this pretty well defended. They've got three players back to defend St. Cloud State's three-man rush, and a fourth player coming back on the backcheck.
A couple things are going to happen on this play to make the puck end up in the back of Miami's net though. First, Roslovic is going to be a little mesmerized by the puck and follow Jackson rather than accounting for Borgen. That essentially turns a 3-on-3 into a 3-on-2 for the Huskies. Second, Borgen is going to execute a perfect center lane drive.
If you're not familiar with the 3-on-2 center lane drive, Tanabe Hockey has good explainer here. The basic idea is to force the weak side defenseman to have to choose which of the two forwards he wants to cover by creating multiple layers of attack. It's a simple play, but requires some aggressiveness on the part of the player driving the net, and a tremendous amount of speed and quickness in order to create enough depth to the layer of attack.
Jackson slows up once he gains the zone to give himself a little more gap with the defenseman covering him, and to give Borgen time to get to the net.
Under most circumstances, the weak side defenseman, Miami's Louie Belpedio(58) in this case, is going to follow the player skating through the prime scoring area. But in this example, Belpedio stays with the weakside winger, Patrick Russell(63) while Borgen breaks open down the middle of the ice.
Borgen is wide open in the slot. Seeing this, Belpedio turns to try and cover him, but he's a step behind the play and caught in no-man's land. He can't catch up to Borgen, but he's also turned his attention away from Russell. Again, if Jackson-Borgen-Russell were attacking in the straight line, Belpedio would have been able to cover both. But Borgen's speed on the center lane drive creates about 15 feet of separation between him and Russell making it impossible for Belpedio to cover both.
Miami's only hope to stop the play is to block Jackson's pass, and Chris Joyaux(5) gets his stick on the puck, tipping the pass a few feet behind Borgen. But...
Borgen makes an incredible play to reacha back with his left foot and redirect the puck towards the net. Instead of being cleared away harmlessly by Belpedio, the puck goes on net, and goalie Jay Williams has to clear it away with his left pad. I have no idea if that would have counted had Borgen's deflection gone in. It's not exactly a direct kicking motion, though he's very intentionally using his foot to put the puck towards the net. Either way, Williams' save leaves a juicy rebound...
And Patrick Russell is there to clean it up for the goal.
The full replay is in the NCHC.tv game highlights. The play starts at the 2:14 mark of the video.
1. The number one fundamental to creating offense is forcing one defender to cover two players, and creating layers of attack, as St. Cloud State does here, makes it impossible for a defender to cover both. They put pressure on Miami and were able to force a mistake when the defender made a bad read.
2. Will Borgen's offensive game continues to develop at an impressive rate. There are still areas of his game that will need to round out, but this goal happened because he made a great read to join the rush, had above average skating ability to get into position, and made a tremendous skill play to keep the play alive on a bad pass. The ability to combine those three things is what makes a player elite.
3. Jack Roslovic is a very skilled offensive player--his goal in this game was a beauty--and he was certainly worthy of being a late-first round draft pick last summer, but there are still a lot of holes in his defensive game that he'll need to work on in college before he's ready for the next level, and this was a good example of that.