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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

Crashing the net can be form of art for Komets

By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel<br /> <br /> By crashing the net in the final seconds, Komets forward Gabriel Desjardins, No. 14, was able to tie the game against Brampton on Feb. 18 and key a win in overtime for Fort Wayne. 
By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel

By crashing the net in the final seconds, Komets forward Gabriel Desjardins, No. 14, was able to tie the game against Brampton on Feb. 18 and key a win in overtime for Fort Wayne. 
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press

It takes brains, finesse and muscle to do well

Monday, March 13, 2017 01:59 pm
By expanding the goalie crease and tweaking the rules, hockey has tried to limit players crashing the net, but sometimes getting in the goaltender's face is the only way to score a goal. It also might be the hardest thing to do well in the game. Consider that goaltenders are continuing to get bigger, and so are the defensemen who are responsible for protecting the front of the net. It's also where defenders can get away with the most uncalled infractions, especially when the puck is in the area. Only real men go to the net because they know they will pay a price.

But there is an art form to effectively getting to the front of the net. It's not just putting your head down and charging until you run into someone or their stick with your nose or teeth.

There are some key factors:

1. Keeping your stick on the ice.

"It sounds simple but it's hard to do because you're being cross checked, they are trying to lift your stick, etc.," Mason Baptista said. "You have to be heavy on your stick when you know that shot is coming in. That's something we practice a lot."

2. Stop when you get there.

"A lot of guys go to the net and they go beside it or behind," Jamie Schaafsma said. "I catch myself doing it quite a bit, and it's about having that consciously in your head to stop. There are a lot of things involved, but stopping at the net is huge."

3. But don't stop too long.

"Sometimes once a big defenseman has you tied up he has you," Komets coach Gary Graham said. "If you are smart you have to pop off him and create space or spin off him. Some guys just get in there and stand there line a pylon."

4. Go hard, but not too hard.

"We work on that a lot in practice, but it's a timing thing," Mike Embach said. "You have to know when the guy is going to shoot. If he shoots it too hard and you're too close, you have no time to react. It's about being in the right spots and reading the play. It is a skill. The easiest thing is if you are left-handed it's driving the right side and trying to get in line with that right post. Other than that, you have to look for holes and be small."

5. Be patient. Even the best net crashers are thrilled if they are successful 20 percent of the time.

"There are sometimes you come back to the bench and you are frustrated because there's that open net or a really good chance you didn't capitalize on, but you watch NHL games and there are still goalies making those saves," Garrett Thompson said. "It happens all over so you know you're not going to get all of them.

"Sometimes it's hockey sense because you think it's going to go here and it doesn't. Sometimes you are way out and get lucky, but more often than you know you have an idea where it might pop to."

It's also about angles and maybe knowing what a goaltender likes to do with his rebounds, and even then, it can depend on how well a player knows how a teammate likes to shoot. Getting to know center Mike Cazzola's tendencies helped Embach and Kyle Thomas score a bunch of goals. Then, when Thomas got called up, Graham had to shuffle the lines to find balance, and that meant getting to know new linemates.

Former Komet Konstantin Shafranov lacked a ton of muscle mass, but he was always one of the best players in the league around the net. Shafranov had the knack of getting to loose pucks and rebounds and arriving at the puck for the split second he needed to shoot. That's how he scored two critical goals last weekend.

The current players who seem to have the best knack for getting in close to score are Thompson and Schaafsma. Thompson is big, and Schaafsma is sneaky. Baptista has also been on a hot streak in front.

"A lot of it is timing," Baptista said. "If you look at a lot of the goals in the NHL, a lot of them are weakside post. If you are too early the defense will come to you, or if you are too late the goalie will make it there. That comes from practicing it consistently and reading the play and timing your route.

"When you do it more consistently, you'll either start scoring more or you'll start pulling defense coverage to you and you create space for someone else. Not everyone wants to be that guy because you take a lot of punishment."

For more on the Komets, follow Blake Sebring on Twitter at @blakesebring, at his blog tailingthekomets.com and on Facebook at Blake Sebring.

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