Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The anatomy of a game-winning goal: Kozek to Malone to Zajac?

One fact that went largely unnoticed following Darcy Zajac's dramatic overtime goal against Colorado College last Sunday was that none of the three forwards involved in setting up and scoring the goal had been playing together on the same line.

While it's not unusual in the process of changing lines on the fly for a few players from different lines to be on the ice when a goal is scored, I couldn't recall an instance when teams were playing 5-on-5 in which all three forwards involved in a goal had each been playing on different lines during a game (Zajac third line center, Brad Malone fourth line center and Andrew Kozek first line wing).

When I asked Fighting Sioux coach Dave Hakstol how this happened, here's how he explained the situation:
When (Brett) Hextall came out of the box, he had an opportunity to join in the play, so he ended up staying out on the ice for about 30+ seconds, which made him unavailable for the next shift. With Rau up for CC, I wanted to get Duncan's line back on the ice. Malone was out in place of Hextall on the right wing. In the meantime, Duncan took a fairly short shift. Zajac's line was up next, so he took Duncan on the fly. After the partial change on the fly, instead of Kozek-Duncan-Malone, we had Kozek-Zajac-Malone. It made sense at the time, but I'm not sure if it does when I look at it in print!
Hakstol emphasized that the key element in making this work was Malone's reliability in playing any position in any situation, a trust he has gained over the past couple of months.