The Shooting Zone: How to Optimize Your Air Hockey Offense For Maximize Scoring
Let’s start with the basics. Do you know what those different lines on an air hockey table are called? They are meant to resemble a hockey field. The two horizontal planes make it easy to mark the goals. Players use these markings to decide how to play the offense and where to hit the puck so that it ends up in the opponent’s goal. There is a centerline to mark how far you can reach on the table because you are not allowed to reach over to the opponent’s side of the table. Now, the shooting zone is a semicircle with the centerline as its base. This is on your side of the table and remember that it is not marked. This place has the highest percentage to score from so learning how to drift your puck to this zone and then taking your shot will elevate your game play to a master level. If you observe any competitive or professional players you will notice them making different shots from the shooting zone. Air Hockey has a lot to do with angles and physics as you play on a nearly frictionless surface due to the air being flown through the table and a lot of the shots require hitting the puck at a certain angle on the edge of the table.
How exactly is physics involved?
It’s simple. The shooting zone is located closest to the opponent’s goal from your side of the table. The shorter the distance the less time needed for the puck to reach the goal. This ensures that your opponent has less time to react to your shot. Air hockey is all about speed and reflexes so even a split second difference matters. If they cannot see your shot coming from a mile away, figuratively speaking, then they will not have the time to plan the best defense to block the goal.
But that is not all. As I mentioned before angles are important in air hockey. So what does geometry have to do with it? Your attack will be more accurate because the puck has less distance to travel in order to score. It is just like the old saying goes, "Aim small, miss small." If you are aiming for a target that is further away then your accuracy will decrease and when you pair that with the increased time for your opponent to respond, it significantly reduces your chances of securing a goal.
Should Every Shot be Taken From the Zone?
Like we said a lot of the shots will be taken from the shooting zone but that does not mean that you need to get your puck into the shooting zone or you will not be able to score. The highest chance of scoring successfully will be if you shoot from there but that does not-and perhaps, should not- be the only trick up your sleeve. If your opponent knows you will always shoot from the shooting zone they will be somewhat more prepared. A good rule of thumb is you should be taking about 90% of your shots from the shooting zone and the remaining 10% should be from outside it. This will keep your opponent unsure of what you are going to hit them with next and that element of surprise can help you win. The 10% that you shoot from outside the zone should be like a trick shot or something similar to keep your opponent on their toes. Air hockey has a physical element, of course, but it is also a significantly mentally challenging game too if you play competitively. Repeating the same moves over and over will not get you success every time.
Remember that your challenger can easily block straight shots from the zone if they also move forward to cut off your angle on their goal. If you start to notice this you can change up your selection with a shot from inside or outside the zone to use that element of surprise. A good offense to trick your opponent is to learn drifting. Air hockey drifting is when you gently push the puck with your mallet and when it is moving slowly you take your shot. Once you drift a puck your opponent will get the impression that you are planning to send the puck in one direction and get ready to block it but with a drift you can change the direction so that your opponent does not have time to recalibrate and block the puck. There are different kinds of drifts: the circle drift, the basic drift, and the L-drift. These require quite a bit of practice to get right but combine a drift with shooting from the shooting zone and you maximize your chances of scoring.