The Importance of the First 20 Minutes

I recently completed a study on the 2011-2012 NCAA hockey season and the situational records of every team. I looked at the records for every team in Division 1 and their wins and losses in home/away games, after each period, after the first goal, and in games of certain scoring margins. I also broke it down by conference and by teams that made the NCAA Tournament. All of these yielded interesting results, but two in particular jumped out at me.

The first number that caught my eye was team records after the first goal. Everyone in hockey wants to score the first goal, but I know that I was unaware as to the impact of that goal on the result of the hockey game. In 2011-2012, teams that scored first won 66.94% of their games. If you just look at teams that made the NCAA Tournament, that number jumps to 78.02%.

The second (and much more striking) number is winning percentage after the first period. Teams that had a lead after the first period won 77.09% of the time. Once again, this number jumps among teams in the Tournament, up to 84.75%.

An old adage in hockey is to “Use statistics like a drunkard uses a lamp post – for support, not illumination.” I do not disagree with this statement and in this case these numbers support the importance of scoring first and having a lead after the first period. Naturally, every team wants to score first and maintain a lead, but I was unaware as to the amount that this influenced a game. Now that I am aware, the process moves to how am I going to use these numbers to make myself a better coach and my team more successful.

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