If you have been getting bored lately and would like to indulge in some action-packed games, then air hockey could be what you need.
The 2-player game can be played anywhere and even so in the comfort of your home.
You and your opponent will be standing on opposite ends of the table and get to showcase your prowess.
Sounds interesting already? Here are some simple but essential beginner-friendly air hockey strategies and tips for both defense and offense;
Air Hockey Offense Tips & Strategies
Like any game, when playing air hockey, you obviously want to win. And that can only be possible with a good offense.
Remember, winning is based on the scored points. So if you’re finding it difficult to effectively place the puck into your opponent’s goal, then you have to up your game!
And what better way to learn than to invest in mastering some pro offensive strategies?
Learn the Art of Drifting
In air hockey, drifting is important. It basically refers to the act of gently sliding the puck in one direction.
And as the opponents shifts their attention to the moving puck, you quickly reach out and shoot it in the opposite direction!
This will get your opponent off guard and you will probably score a goal before they get to adjust.
So for instance, if your opponent sees the puck moving towards the left side, they will obviously adjust their mallet to block it. And when you suddenly change direction to the right, they won’t have sufficient time to readjust, hence you can smash into the goal with ease.
- Use the One-Two Shot
This simply refers to the use of two shots in one.
With this shot, you can easily overwhelm your opponent, as in their eyes, the puck will be literally bouncing everywhere.
But in reality, you will be smartly hitting the puck with your mallet such that it ends up first in the bank before heading to your opponent’s goal.
How do you achieve this?
- Focus on hitting the puck such that it lands on your opponent’s side but on top of the corner that’s closest to you, before landing at the bottom of the corner that’s closest to their goal.
- The puck should return to you after the second bounce and you should use this opportunity to shoot it so that it hits the rail, bounce, and land straight into your opponent’s goal.
Note; the secret here is to be fast, giving no chance for your opponent to predict your next move.
- The Casting Cut Shot
If you can’t yet deal with complex shots such as the one-two above, then the casting cut shot can serve you well.
It’s very effective if used well, so you don’t have to feel less aggressive.
The best time to use this shot is after your opponent has scored. Most of the players, especially beginners get a little bit of entitlement once they have scores and end-up underestimating their opponents.
Since you already know what you’re up to, stay calm and let your opponent think “there’s no way you’re getting yourself out of this one.”
And once they relax and lose focus, you hit!
Here’s how it do:
Once your opponent scores and you get the chance to move the puck from your goal, don’t just place it randomly.
Instead, gently place it diagonally such that it floats facing the direction where you plan to shoot it.
Quickly shoot the puck with your mallet as it floats, so that it lands on your opponent’s side and the opposite corner facing their goal.
Most probably, your opponent won’t be expecting this as they will be focused on the other goal and not on the opposite corner of their goal.
- The Chase Shot
This shot is also referred to as the “moving puck shot”. And it should be easy to achieve if you have ever used the one-two shot as they share a lot of similarities.
Here, you should focus on confusing your opponent by keeping them busy with the fast movements of the puck within the rails.
And at the slightest chance, you slide the puck through the middle and score.
Doing it right;
- First, get the puck into your opponent’s corner by hitting it off your rail.
- The focus is to have the puck bouncing back to your corner from your opponent’s corner.
- Wait until the puck bounces twice (hitting the side and close to the goal), then use their perfect positioning to shoot it across the table to your opponent’s side and straight into their goal
Note; maintain a straight shot straight down the center or corner side of your opponent’s goal.
Watch this video for a better understanding of the professional air hockey trick shots;
Maintaining Puck Possession
You should always take each puck possession you get and use it to shoot as many shots as possible to help you win.
However, most beginners don’t understand the concept of puck saving to prevent it from drifting away.
Always ensure that you’re on your toes. That way you get to circle the puck with ease and be in a position to grab it before your opponent does.
The secret here is to brace your mallet as you move it back as if to catch it.
Since we find it difficult to describe this motion for you, this video below should serve as an example.
Air Hockey Defense tips and Strategies
Any great offensive strategy requires a good defense. Here are some amazing defensive strategies to help you keep the puck out of your goal;
Defend the Goal
Before anything else, when it comes to practicing defense in an air hockey game, you have to master how to hold the mallet around your goal.
One of the most common tactics used by beginners is holding the mallet right up against their goal.
Some of them prefer setting the paddle 1-2 inches in front of their goals to ensure the puck stays out.
But while these two are great and are quite effective in blocking some shots, they don’t give you much time to react to the blocks you make. So at the end of it, your goal might be prone to paddle ricochets, which you would want to avoid.
Which option should you use?
Focus on holding your mallet at about 6-12 inches away from your goal, instead of keeping it close.
However, this will largely depend on the size of the air hockey table you’re using. The smaller it’s the shorter the distance you will have to maintain and vice versa.
Using this strategy will be a great help to your defense as you can control your mallet angle, especially when dealing with straight shots.
You also, get the advantage of quickly restrategizing and giving fast mallet movements when reacting to bank shots.
Keep Your Eyes on the Puck
Now that you have already mastered the defense tactics and know the best defensive position to assume whenever playing, it’s time to learn how to track the pluck.
Most beginners have no idea how dangerous it’s to keep chasing the puck around using their paddle.
While they think they’re doing pretty well, they come out as an easy target to experienced opponents, who can quickly take advantage of the move to score goals.
When your hands are busy tracking the puck, you become less focused on your opponent’s next move.
So if they decide to attack, it will be difficult for you to react on time to match the moving speed of the puck.
Quit using your hands and try using your eyes instead.
You will realize that it’s pretty easy to follow the puck with your eyes than your hands.
Also, you get enough time to ready for your opponent’s next shot. So you can easily and quickly pull the mallet and block the puck movements, especially if heading to your goal.
Look at it as a double win; you get time to plan an effective counter-attack and that too with a well-timed shot.
As for shots, you can use the various varieties mentioned above in the offensive strategies or go a straight on, whichever works to deliver expected results is good enough.
Other General Defense and Offense Tips
- Avoid moving too quickly in the offense. Instead, focus on learning the various steps of the game before jumping to the next.
If you rush, your game will be full of holes that will block you from exploiting the defense’s weaknesses.
- Practice as often as possible. If you can afford to have an air hockey table at home, then good for you. But if you can’t there’re various portable and light-weighted tabletop models in the market that you can purchase for practice purposes.
- Hold the mallet like a pro. If you don’t have a good hold, then it’s easy to miss great shots. The best way to do it is by using only a few fingers and not all five. This with a balanced grip will give you the best shots throughout the game.
- Get ready for the rebound. Whenever you make a mistake hitting the puck, you give your opponent a chance to hit it back. And you receive a rebound.
So you should always be careful not to be caught off guard. If you’re always ready, you can easily prevent it from advancing further. Or avoid it from the start by offering a perfect shot.
As you plan for your next air hockey game, you should make a strategy to ensure a win.
And that includes both defense and offensive planning. From learning a few trick shots, mastering goal defense to maintaining puck possession, it’s a learning process that requires a lot of practice.
So if you can, get yourself a tabletop model table for home practicing.
This way, you can easily learn tips and tricks to help you exhibit your prowess in the field.