Thanks to a mercy rule, the game got over as fast as it could.

The “Mercy Rule,” created by the National Federation of State High School Associations, and implemented by the Maine Principals’ Association, kicks in via a running clock once a team reaches a 10-goal deficit in the third period of a game. If there is a six-goal deficit after two periods, the two head coaches can mutually agree to start the running clock at the onset of the third period, before the game even gets to a 10-goal differential.

“It’s not fun to be a part of,” Lewiston athletic director Jason Fuller said. “I know it wasn’t fun for Bangor the other night, it wasn’t fun for us.”

Fuller, a member of the MPA’s Ice Hockey Committee, was on-hand to watch the Blue Devils beat the Rams 12-0 last week.

“It certainly moves that final period,” Fuller said. “These things happen, and I don’t think anybody thought that was going to happen the other night, but it did.”

The Blue Devils hanging a dozen on Bangor was a bit of a surprise, considering the Rams were a playoff team last year that gave Lewiston fits during the regular season, and were expected by many to be one of the better teams in Class A.


Yet there are some matchups where a blowout isn’t as much of a surprise.

“In both aspects, you’re trying to save the morale of the weaker team,” Waterville coach Dennis Martin said. “And the running time, you obviously want to finish the game a little earlier for those guys.”

Martin’s Purple Panthers team already has a pair of of double-digit-goal victories against Class B North competition. That’s the same number as Lewiston. No other boys’ team has multiple mercy-rule wins, but Maranacook/Winthrop has been on the losing end of such games five times during its 0-9 start.

“To be honest, I think it ends what is an out-of-control game quicker,” Hawks coach Chip Jones said. “Which is good, I believe, for all parties involved.”

It’s similar on the girls’ side, where two teams have been dealing out the majority of the mercy-rule decisions. St. Dominic Academy has won by 10 goals or more four times in 10 games, while Greely has done so three times in nine games.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mt. Ararat/Morse has lost nearly half of its games (five of 11) by double-digit deficits.


“I’m not sure what can be done different,” Fuller said. “We talked about it when it got voted in, and I think it was good to have it in place. I don’t think there’s much more you can do, other than sending some lines in and bringing other kids out at different times, but that’s not allowed by the rules.”

“Certainly, at the national level they allow state associations to go in and develop their own (rules), and we’ve done that with our ejection policy and whatnot, but we have not done anything with the mercy rule,” MPA Assistant Executive Director Mike Burnham said. “I think it’s (a rule) that’s been accepted by hockey schools, I would assume across the nation, but certainly across the state. It has not generated a lot of discussion with our Ice Hockey Committee.”

“We really haven’t dealt a lot with it,” Fuller added. “I think what makes hockey really difficult is the limited roster that you’re allowed by NFHS rules. You’re allowed 20 kids; that doesn’t leave a lot of flexibility. You’re trying to be nice, and get younger kids in, and do some things, but at the same point you got to sometimes skate out a line you probably don’t want to skate out late in that game.”

While the rule has been accepted by coaches, it might be not be overly popular.

“Most coaches don’t like the running time because they don’t want to shorten the game up,” Martin said. “And the teams that are getting beat want to hang around, see what they can do, maybe we can win the period, tie the period.”

“I have mixed emotions on it,” St. Dom’s girls’ coach Paul Gosselin said. “I guess it’s beneficial in the sense if you’re losing, but if you’re winning it doesn’t make a difference. I’d rather get the ice time in.


“You always want more ice time so your team can develop. But it can be demoralizing to the players.”

Gosselin doesn’t have the maximum-size roster, so he can’t do much more to quell his team’s scoring other than tell his players to just try to do so.

“Basically, we play; once you get up by that (margin), I have four lines, I just run four lines; when their turn comes up, they go,” Martin said. “You end up getting more playing time with your third and fourth lines when you get into that part of the game. But, also, the running time does cut into, when you get into the playoff time, about playing a full game when you need to.”

Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau said he tries not to focus on the running clock.

“I don’t want my players focused on, ‘Oh, the clock is running,’ or, ‘The clock should be running.’ It’s not something we control. It’s not something that I want my kids to be distracted by or even be thinking about,” Belleau said. “It’s kind of like when the ice is not very good. Well, there’s a referee, there’s officials, they decide whether the ice is playable, and the last thing I want our kids to do is focus on whether the ice is playable or not.”

Belleau added that he lets the opposing coach decide whether or not he wants to enact the running clock at the end of the second period for instances of games with a six-goal margin.


“I try to be respectful. I mean, look, no one likes to get beat. That could be me some day,” Belleau said. “I think it’s for the benefit of the other team, and I don’t want to be in a position where I’m being disrespectful.”

“I think in the Bangor game they didn’t want to,” Belleau said. “And (the referees) said to me, ‘Do you have a problem with that?’ I said, ‘No, that’s up to the coach.'”

Fuller said he felt for coaches on both sides of blowouts.

“I think those are the most difficult games to manage when things start going like that,” he said. “Any coach who’s been around long enough — and Jamie’s coached long enough, he’s experienced these things — you try to manage the best you can. And when it happens, it happens, and we talk about what we can do different. I think everybody wants to be aware of both sides.”

The mercy rule has proven to be a band-aid fix to what is a bigger issue for hockey in the state, and that is competitive balance.

“I think it only happens in the sense when some of the parity is not right,” Gosselin said.

“I think we’re very supportive of looking at a competitive model that tries to balance the scheduling, along with putting kids into a competitive game,” Burnham said. “It may mean a Class A team playing a few more Class B teams, or a Class A team playing another Class A team a second time rather than playing one of the top teams.”

“It’s not a cure, that’s for sure,” Fuller said.

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