To master the game of air hockey, you will need to learn to out-think and out-maneuver your opponent. To do this you will need to master two important plays: drifting the puck and lining up trick shots. Here is what you need to know about fine-tuning your offensive game. Let’s start at the beginning and understand the basics of drifting.
Don’t forget that your table should be ready to perform these advanced shots and techniques. Learn how to make your air hockey table slide better if it seems to be sliding a little less than what you want.
Drifting the Puck
Drifting the puck is a foundational skill that any effective air hockey player must master along with the basic rules of air hockey. What is drifting? Drifting is setting your puck to be launched at the opponent’s goal. Basically, this is a pass to yourself, placing the puck in the shooting zone where the probability of making a successful score is highly increased.
The shooting zone is an area right behind the center of the field. This zone is where your accuracy is increased and you will face no difficulty in lining up a wide variety of shots. Most importantly, striking from the shooting zone will allow you to use any of the trick shots we will explore in the following section.
Drifting your puck will allow you to control the field and determine where your opponent will place their attention and their defense. If you drift the puck in one direction, you force the attention of you into a specific spot where they assume the puck will be directed. But you can then react quickly and strike where there is no defense. It takes some practice to master and you will need to read your opponent’s defense to select the best move. This is how successful plays are made.
Related: See our comparison of the best air hockey tables with an electronic scoreboard.
The Trick Shots
This is an especially good way to fake out your enemy and lure them into a false sense of security. It’s actually two shots in one. To your opponent, it will seem you have lost control of the puck and it is bouncing in all directions. But, with practice, you can strike at the bank with deadly accuracy.
The first move is the most important and it must look like you don’t know what you are doing. After you have drifted to the shooting zone you will send the puck to either of your opponent’s corners. The idea is to get it to bounce off the side and then the top of the corner where it will bounce and return to you in your shooting zone. Once it enters the shooting zone you can smash it toward the bank for an easy and unprotected score.
The important thing is to not slow down, the success of this shot is in making your opponent think the game has gotten out of your control. If the play is made slowly, it looks predictable and your opponent will see through the deception. So, after drifting into position, flash it down to the corner, calculate where it will re-enter the shooting zone, and snap it into the goal. Try to look surprised when you do score so have an opportunity to use this trick again.
This is a far easier trick to complete than the one-two. You can maximize the efficacy of this shot by capitalizing on the confidence of your opponent. A good time to use it is just after your opponent has scored and is feeling a bit confident.
The first part of the play can be done slowly and deliberately. You must drift the puck diagonally across the shooting zone. When it reaches the optimal spot where you can make a shot. As the puck moves diagonally, your opponent will move into a defensive position.
Most often if you drift to the left, your opponent will place their defense on the left side of their goal. This is where you will snap it to the unprotected corner of their goal. If you do this just right, your opponent will suspect nothing.
This is the next trick shot to use if you feel the opponent is getting smart and recognizing your prowess at drifting and getting into position. It is important to move fast so that your opponent doesn’t see what is happening.
This is what’s happening:
Begin by drifting to your shooting zone and setting up your shot. Your target will be either of the opponent’s corners. The idea is to get the puck to bounce back and fly into your own corner before drifting back to the shooting zone. It should look like you have lost all control and are flying by the seat of your pants. Done right, the deception is undetectable and your opponent will assume you got lucky. Only you and I will know how much practice went into this small miracle.
Take the time to practice smashing into the corners in such a way that it will return to your own corner seemingly too fast for a reaction. If you hit your left corner, the opponent will defend the left and vice versa. Knowing this, you will wait till the puck has cleared your corner and entered into the shooting zone. At this point the velocity of the puck will have slowed marginally, allowing you to react with a decisive attack on the unprotected corner of the opponent’s goal.
Final Notes on Trick Shots for Air Hockey
Practice makes perfect! Before unleashing on your partner, make sure you have taken the time to build accuracy and split-second reaction times. Deception is the name of the game so be sure to apply all the “oops”, “yikes” and “well, look at that’s” the ruse calls for (or whatever comes naturally when you appear to be out of control). Finally, be sure to preserve your trick shots for moments when they will be unnoticed, this will allow you to use them several times in the game without raising awareness of your air hockey prowess.