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How Mike Chanenchuk has been fooling goalies with his unique shooting style

By Adam Lamberti | Dec 11, 2023

Maryland Whipsnakes midfielder Mike Chanenchuk has one of the most unique shooting releases in the league.

It looks like his windup is in slow-motion. He hides his hands behind his head and body for as long as possible, then whips the ball through with so much velocity with excellent torque and wrist strength.

When you look at where Chanenchuk attended high school, it makes more sense how he developed his shot. Attending Saint Anthony’s on Long Island, Chanenchuk played alongside many high-level players, including Utah Archers midfielder Tom Schreiber and Maryland Whipsnakes teammate Will Manny, who both are excellent shooters and have deceptive and snappy releases as well.

“When you think of the three of us and our Saint Anthony's background, I always do think of Coach Schreiber, you know, talking about snapping your wrists, snapping your wrists, snapping your wrists. And that's what he talked about nonstop,” Chanenchuk said.

While Chanenchuk was already a highly touted recruit and shooter in high school, it took an injury for his shot to really jump to the next level during college.

“From Saint Anthony’s into my college career, I actually had stress fractures in my back; I did it three times,” Chanenchuk said. “I just kind of had to figure out a new way to shoot without putting as much stress on my lower back. I think I developed more wrist strength and tried to use more deception by keeping my hands behind my body as long as possible rather than some of the guys who have super big wind-ups.”

Chanenchuk’s teammate and Maryland Whipsnakes goalie Kyle Bernlohr, who played with Chanenchuk for three years at Maryland as well, says Chanenchuk’s shot still impresses him everytime he sees it. 

“He’s been identical since college, his same release has been identical; if anything he's gotten stronger and he's able to just flip his wrist a little more,” Bernlohr said. “When he was an upperclassman, I was an underclassman, so I was a scout team goalie and stayed after practice any time those older guys wanted shots. So I got to see his shot a million times in college and I feel like over college and pro, it's still impossible to track.”

Chanenchuk has no wasted movement in his windup and shot release, which is why it catches goalies off guard most of the time.

“He doesn't twist the way normal shooters do,” Bernlohr said. “Even his down the alley shot as well, a lot of guys you can anticipate when it’s coming just because their bodies and their heads turn to the outside. But with him, his chest and his body, everything stays kind of downhill, which is really weird, you know?”

Perhaps the most impressive thing about Chanenchuk’s shot is that he keeps his release identical regardless of high or low shot location; Bernlohr noted Chanenchuk is one of the only players he has to take an ‘educated guess’ of where it’s going.

This past season, Chanenchuk had one of his best shooting seasons yet at 33, culminating in a 2nd Team All-Pro nod.

“Every year you kind of think his shots are going to be a little bit different, a little bit weaker,” Bernlohr said. “It feels like it keeps on getting better. He certainly, over the past ten years, is the best shooter I've ever seen.”