3 Quick Lessons on Clearing from the 1st Round of the Men's NCAA Tourney | Lax Goalie Rat

3 Quick Lessons on Clearing from the 1st Round of the Men’s NCAA Tourney


Hope everyone enjoyed the 1st round of the Men’s NCAA tourney last week. There were some great games and there were some blowouts.

After watching all the 1st round of games of the men’s tournament I wanted to pull out 3 particular lessons that goalies could learn from. Specifically when it comes to a part of the game that is just as important as making saves – leading the clear.

I’ve discussed these concepts before on the blog but sometimes seeing them in action helps young goalies learn better.

So here’s the 3 lessons on clearing from the 1st round of games.

Clearing – 1st look: where the shot came from

As I talked about in my post on how to clear, all goalies need to have a series of progressions that you go through after save.

Having a set series of progressions is going to help streamline your clearing game.

The first look is always exactly where the shot came from.

Typically the shooter will be watching his shot (as is the case here) allowing the defending middie to slip behind and be wide open for an outlet.

This look not only allows for an easy clear with a lob pass but it sets up your team with a fast break. Remember goalies can create offense by being great clearing and distributers of the ball.

I love the outlet pass of #24 Hopkins goalie Will Ryan on this play.

He overshoots the middie just a little with his outlet. But that’s totally fine because:

  1. they’re playing on turf where the bounces are always true and easy to pickup
  2. from his point of view he can see that no Duke defenders are in front of his middie
  3. leaving the pass short would kill the fast break chance and perhaps even get intercepted by the Duke middies sprinting back.

In this case, it’s much better to miss long than to miss short. Although with practice you should be able to drop a ball into the bucket with a perfect lob pass 9 times out of 10.

Although Hopkins wasn’t able to convert this fast break we still have to give props to their goalie for making the save and creating the opportunity with a perfect lob outlet.

Goalies Are the 1st line of offense

While watching Syracuse take on Yale one thing that jumped out at me was Evan Molloy’s clearing game.

Evan Molloy had an amazing day inside the pipes making 15 saves but it was some of his outlet passes that really ignited the offense.

Checkout his 50 yard outlet pass at 2:11 in this video that leads directly to a last second goal at the end of the quarter.

There’s a few other examples in this game of Molloy’s crisp and accurate outlet passes leading to fast breaks for his offense although none convert into goals.

Contrast that with a play like this:

Yale is holding a 1 goal lead late in the 3rd quarter when goalie #35 Phil Huffard makes a bad outlet pass and hands a goal right to Syracuse.

Working on your outlet passes is extremely important for goalies. You can create offense for your team. But perhaps more importantly you can avoid momentum shifting turnovers in your own end that lead to empty net goals.

Goalies Need to Be Able to Handle the Ball

At some point in your goalie career you’re going to have no outlet options and be hounded by a riding attackman.

It’s at this point where we see which goalies have put in time working on their stick handling skills and their goalie dodges. Goalies should be able to dodge an attackman in this situation to free themselves up to make an outlet.

For Air Force’s Mitch Rose we see he’s one of those who can handle the ball. In fact most goalies don’t reach this level unless they can.

For the young goalies out there, put in extra work at wall ball and practicing a few dodges and stick handling. Then when you’re getting ridden aggressively by an attackman, you won’t panic, you’ll remain calm and lead the clear.


Hope you enjoyed this quick post with 3 takeaways from the 1st round of NCAA games. This past Saturday I watched all the quarterfinal games and these same clearing examples surfaced again.

As a quick recap:

  1. When clearing, the 1st look in your progression is right where the shot came from
  2. Goalies are the 1st line of offense and must avoid turnovers at all costs in their own end
  3. Stick skills and dodging skills are important in clearing

There’s plenty more NCAA games to come and hopefully plenty more lessons that I can share with the Lax Goalie Rat readers.

Until next time! Coach Damon

Are you watching the NCAA tournament? Who is your pick to win it all? 

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5 thoughts on “3 Quick Lessons on Clearing from the 1st Round of the Men’s NCAA Tourney

  1. My coach wants me to chase out almost every cutter so d doesn’t have to come in so far. But by doing this it let for easy up and over shots ( exspecially when they’re 6’4 against me 5’6). What is your take on this and do you have for any tips?
    P.s. This is the girls game.

    1. Hi Anna – I’m not exactly sure what you mean “chase out every cutter”. But if that’s taking you out of position to save shots I’d say its bad. When the ball is at ‘X’ you can setup to help pickoff passes to cutters thereby helping the D but I wouldn’t do anything that gets you out of position to make saves. Hope that helps.

  2. Absolutely correct on first look, where the shot came from. I would add that you should be yelling “break” as soon as you make the save. Loud and clear. Much quicker for your players to consistently get up field.

    Middies should be breaking up field hard (the better you get at clearing the more they’ll know to get up and out fast).

    2nd look – If “where the shot came from” isn’t open I teach young goalies to scan the field in a “Z” pattern starting at the substitution box.

    Across midfield first looking for another middie breaking out or a forgotten attackman wide open on the midfield line. If nothing is there look across the top of the box for a delayed break. If you still have nothing look to each back corner. Your long poles should be there spreading the field.

    If everybody is covered it means you’re the open guy. confirm no on is about to jump you and step out the back of the crease with your head up still scanning the field.

    At this point you are an offensive player and the clear just becomes a simple draw and dump game. Bring the ball up field until you draw a rider then pass to the guy he was covering. He should keep it hot and do the same up the field. The clear just climbs the “draw and dump ladder” (no one should be standing around).

    – avoid passing to the middle of the field inside the box…bad things happen there
    – with a little practice the z pattern is easy and intuitive
    – if things go sideways don’t force something on your end of the field. throw it to a far corner of the field or out of bounds. Better to have a couple seconds to reset the d than to try something cute and give up an easy goal.

  3. I’m having trouble clearing the ball as far as I can and I can only clear 30 yards I want to clear farther what can I do and what drills I can do to make that happen? Need your help

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