What is the Neutral Zone Trap?

Hockey Players on the Ice
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What is "the neutral zone trap" and how do players line up when playing it?

There are a number of defensive plays in hockey, but there is one that is the most frustrating for even the strongest offensive line. The neutral zone trap is a specific defensive alignment in hockey. But any passive, no-risk, defense-first strategy is often referred to as "the trap."

If the hockey game you're watching has few quality shots on goal and plenty of icing and offside calls, chances are one team is playing a variation on the trap.

Simply put, it works something like this:

  1. Team A has the puck in its own zone and is starting an attack.
  2. Team B - the trapping team - retreats to the neutral zone (between the bluelines).
  3. When the Team A puck-carrier crosses his own blueline, he sees a lot of wrong-colored jerseys, little room to maneuver and not many options for a safe pass.
  4. He ices the puck, tries a pass that doesn't work, or turns it over by trying to skate through too many bodies.
  5. If Team B retrieves the puck and sees an opportunity, it might get a decent scoring chance going back the other way.
  6. Otherwise, Team B safely moves the puck out of danger resumes the trapping formation to await the next attack.

The most common alignment of players for the neutral zone trap is the "1-3-1." One defender stationed at the opposition blue line, three at center ice, and one at his own blue line.