Just the other day I was talking with my uncle about my cousin who is a beginning goalie. He was sharing just how difficult low shots are for her to save.
It is a problem area for many goalies, especially beginners.
First off, just like any other shot. Your stance and where you position yourself in the goal are some of the biggest keys to increasing your save percentage.
Many times you can help yourself to get low shots simply by moving your entire stance forward by a half step. In other words, set up like you normally do in the cage then move directly forward (towards the crown of the crease) a half step.
Then just play from here, keeping your same arc that you always use. Keep in mind that just because you moved your stance forward it is still important to step into the ball with both feet when a shot comes.
Another key is to keep your eyes completely focused on the ball at all times. We call this being “honed in.”
It is easy to get lulled to sleep when the ball is being worked around, or when it is behind the cage. You want to maintain a strict focus on that little white sphere any time it is in your end.
Even when it is in an opponent’s stick getting cradled you should be staring at it. Then watch it fly through the air as it is passed around. Try to see if it has a patch of dirt on it, or if Warrior makes it or Maverick does. That is the kind of focus you need to have on it.
When it comes time for them to shoot and you are this focused on the ball it will give you a split second advantage and help you move low if that is where the shot is heading.
When you see a shot is coming low (and always SEE it’s coming, never guess or assume that it is coming low) begin to step in the direction of the shot. If it is coming between your legs just step forward, if it is coming low and to the right step out and to the right, vice versa for left.
As you step begin to turn your hands so that your stick head is upside down, and then move it to the ground where the ball is coming. You want to emphasize getting the head of your stick all the way to the ground. Really jam that head into the dirt. The movement of stepping forward and turning the stick upside down should be done at the same time and in the same motion.
Be sure to keep your body square at all times. Every save you make on a low shot should end with your stick head on the ground between your legs, you never want to have the stick to the left or right of you or outside of your feet.
Stepping to the direction of the ball should mean that this never has to happen. Your top hand should be slightly further extended than your bottom hand, meaning that the stick will be at about a 60-70 degree angle from the ground, as opposed to 90 degrees.
As you step to the ball you want to bend more with your knees than with your back. Don’t just bend your back straight down, because then you will not be able to see rebounds. On top of that, you will be out of position.
Practice Makes Perfect
A great way to practice low shaves is to mimic the motion you should make over and over again without even taking a shot. This is part of our walking the line drill.
Doing this will help you develop muscle memory so that your body is used to the motion by the time the game rolls around. Simply get your pads on and take your stance, then pretend there is a shot coming bottom right and make the appropriate movement.
Stand up and do the same for the other side or the middle. Keep going, walking forward and making the hypothetical saves.
After awhile step into the goal and have your shooter shoot low on you, you will be surprised how natural it feels now.
Low shots are tough to save, but by sticking to basic principles and not freaking out about them they become much more manageable. Remember that a renewed focus on the ball will provide you with more time to react. Always attack and move into the ball, make your feet and arm movements as efficient as possible.