Natalie Darwitz knows goals. When she was at Eagan High School, Darwitz scored 316 goals, a state record. Her 102 goals in three seasons for the University of Minnesota rank fourth all-time for the Gophers. In three Olympic appearances, she scored 14 goals, a record for Team USA.
In December, Darwitz will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. She will be the fifth individual woman to be enshrined.
Currently, she is the head coach at Hamline University where she led the Pipers to a third-place finish at the NCAA Division III tournament last spring. It’s where she’s passing on her knowledge to a new generation of goal scorers.
Enter the zone with speed, and don’t stop moving your feet when it’s time to shoot. Keep your head up and shoot on stride.
“When you go to shoot, you need to have speed,” Darwitz said. “You see too many kids, when they go to a scoring position, their feet get planted and they stickhandle too much. When you score goals, you score because you’re attacking the net with speed. If you watch the best players, they keep their feet moving and they’re an offensive threat. That threat gives you lots of options.”
Sell — or Steal — Something
Shooters tend to be too predictable. Make your opponent think you’re doing one thing but then do something else.
“You have to sell something,” Darwitz said. “You’re selling a pass, then shooting. You’re selling going to their backhand then going to your forehand. Make everyone think you’re driving wide then, all of a sudden—boom!—cut in at the top of the circle. You don’t play hockey with blinkers. You’re not telling people if you’re turning right or turning left. You have to think like a bank robber: Act like you’re going on the highway but then turn and go down the alley.”
If you’re not thinking three seconds ahead, you’re three seconds behind.
“If you’re stickhandling at the line or the dot (not knowing what you’re going to do next), you just lost three seconds,” she said. “When you’re entering the zone at the blue line, you should already be thinking about the tops of the circles. Kids shoot way too late. If you think three seconds ahead, you’ll be in the right spot with a higher percentage to score. You’ll come in faster, with momentum behind your shot. Your shot’s going to be quicker, and your percentage of scoring is going to be higher.”
Use All Your Tools
Good goal scorers have all their tools at the ready.
“The neutral zone is your runway; it’s where you increase your speed for takeoff,” she said. “Carry the puck over the offensive blue line on your forehand. You’re more of a threat, and the defender is going to back up. If you come in on your forehand with speed you can drive wide, shoot through screens, make cross-ice passes to teammates—you’ll have a plethora of options. You’re less dangerous starting on your backhand. Good defenders will see that and gap up quickly and take away angles right away.”