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Breaking down the penalty kill with Coach Vogelhuber

Photo Credit: John Saraya/Cleveland Monsters

Last season, Trent Vogelhuber made the transition from player to Assistant Coach for the Cleveland Monsters. Since settling into his role as Assistant Coach, Vogelhuber has taken on the task of running the team’s penalty kill unit. It has proved to be a successful transition as the Monsters currently sit fourth in the league for shorthanded goals (11). Also, the Monsters sit 11th in the league with an 82.9% success rate on the kill. Considering the fact they were shorthanded 269 times (3rd most in the league) this season, the percentage of opponent’s they stopped from scoring on the power play is better than the number suggests.

In December, I decided to have a chat with Coach Vogelhuber about what it’s been like to take the reigns of the penalty kill.

Elaine Shircliff : As a newer coach, what does it mean to you to know that you’re the one quarterbacking one of the best penalty kills in the American Hockey League?

Trent Vogelhuber : Oh gosh. I don’t know what it means to me. I think the penalty kill is a good opportunity for guys to up their urgency and to keep things simple. I like the fact that we can do that and hopefully it carries over into five-on-five play. I think it’s important to nail that down in the beginning of the year, what you expect in that setting. Like I said, hopefully that carries over into five-on-five play and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of it so far this year.

ES : When you became a coach was that something you wanted to eventually take over? or did you just kind of find your way working into it?

TV : Well, it was something that I was fairly good at as a player. I felt like I was knowledgeable about it. So, after a couple weeks of being a coach it just kind of sorted itself out. I was happy to take it on.

ES : You roll the units a lot. Sometimes you piece meal them together in the middle of the kill. Why do you feel like that’s important?

TV : The way we want to kill is high intensity and it’s hard to do. If a regular hockey shift is 35-45 seconds, a good penalty kill shift, especially for the forwards, should be 20-25 seconds. That’s the way we want to kill. Guys shouldn’t be out there long. If they’re doing it properly, they should be tired after 25 seconds. I think we can keep that urgency and keep that intensity up with more people you roll out there.

ES : How do you approach a two-man disadvantage differently than the four-on-five? or do you approach it the same way?

TV: No, it’s strategically quite a bit different. You can’t be as aggressive and you have to kind of sit back and be patient. You have to take away lanes and shot blocking. Obviously you rely a little bit more on your goalie in those situations. They’re difficult, obviously. They’re definitely different but again it’s the same mindset. You have to bring the warrior mentality when you’re on the kill.

ES : What has been the most difficult part about doing the kill compared to other aspects of coaching?

TV: Oh gosh, the most difficult part is you have to be a little bit more detailed. There are some areas that are black and white and we won’t accept anything less than what we lay out there. There are certain ways like that on five-on-five but you kind of have to let guys play a little bit more. They’re all good players and they know what to do for the most part. But on the penalty kill there’s a little bit more structure and guys know for the most part kind of where to be in certain situations.

ES : What’s the one thing you preach to the guys over and over on the kill to keep them in that mindset?

I think it’s just that. If you have that energy and mindset on the penalty kill it filters over to five-on-five and you can win a game on special teams and on the penalty kill. I try to preach that you bring that energy and bring that attention to detail on the penalty kill, not only will you get more ice time but it’ll transfer over to your five-on-five game and that’s good for everybody.