Lewiston coaches, including head coach Jamie Belleau at left, draw up plans and pump their players up during a time out with less than two minutes remaining in last year’s Class A state championship game against Biddeford. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

Just like a sharpened skate on fresh ice, momentum is difficult to stop in hockey.

A coach can’t jump on the ice and try to stop it for his momentum-chasing players, but he can call a timeout to try to bring the game to a temporary halt.

But each coach only gets one.

“With only one to use for the entire game, calling timeout, it’s never a decision I take lightly,” Mt. Ararat/Lisbon/Morse/Hyde boys hockey coach A.J. Kavanaugh said. “Ideally it’s something you can save for a critical time in the third period, but we all know that isn’t always the case.”

“We have 10 guys and will use it when we feel it can have a major impact on what we are doing,” Biddeford coach Jason Tremblay said. “It is very rare we have our timeout left in the last four to five minutes of the game, where most teams wait until the end.”


Sometimes a coach can’t wait until the end of the game.

Lewiston coach Jamie Belleau used his timeout midway through the third period of Saturday’s Class A North semifinal against Edward Little, right after the Red Eddies took a 5-2 lead by scoring two goals in less than two minutes.

“I just thought it was time where we could have lost track of that game real quick,” Belleau said. “That was a time where I wanted to calm then down and slow the game down for them.”

The Blue Devils rallied back and won the game in overtime.

Belleau’s thought process is similar to the sentiments of Kavanaugh’s father.

“My father was a hockey coach and has always told me to consider timeouts if momentum is swinging heavily towards your opponent, or if emotions are running too high during the course of the game,” Kavanaugh said. “If a game gets out of hand and you end up losing by a large margin and you never used your timeout, you might have lost an opportunity and to change the course of a game by settling your players down and possibly slowing down an opponent’s momentum.”



Hockey is a fast-paced game, and that extends to the time between stoppages and faceoffs. So coaches have to make a split-second decision to use a timeout.

But it’s a decision that can’t be rash.

“Timeouts, for us, is you got to quickly react on as coaches, ‘Is it going to favor your team only?’ Or is it just to call a timeout and really in the long run, or the short-term, is it benefitting the other team by giving them rest,” St. Dominic Academy coach Bob Parker said. “So it’s a game. There’s some gamesmanship on coaches sometimes on using timeouts.”

“Hopefully it’s going to help your team, it’s going to benefit your team more than his team,” Parker added. “You get down to the end of the game, you know things are going to slow down somewhat. If you’re ahead you don’t want that to happen. But, you know, sometimes those timeouts are going to occur. You know they’re going to occur. You’re kind of guessing when they’re going to occur.”

Kavanaugh called the opponent’s timeout a “second timeout opportunity.” And it’s one his team took advantage of in a quarterfinal game against Edward Little. A Red Eddies timeout in the waning seconds allowed Kavanaugh a chance to draw up a game-tying play that his team successfully executed.


“Part of it’s assessing your kids, assessing how they’re responding to the current situation at the time. Part of it’s assessing the other team, and what’s going on with the other team as best you can,” Belleau said. “So you want to try to use it at a time that you think it’s necessary, and you want to try to use it at a time that you think it’s going to be most productive for your kids.”


No two timeouts are quite the same. There are infinite situations a team can find itself in that would push a coach to use his one timeout.

Maybe it’s a momentum swing, or maybe it’s a chance to draw up a play for a much-needed goal. Just as every timeout situation is different, every coach’s philosophy is different.

“I would say it’s a pretty even split between late-game timeouts, where we look to discuss a set play or strategy, and earlier-game timeouts, where you’re looking to settle things down and redirect your team when things aren’t going our way,” Kavanaugh said.

“I think, mostly from my perspective, the motivation piece is (already there throughout the game),” Belleau said. “So from our perspective, it’s situational. And it’s trying to slow the game down for them a little bit, and try to focus on things that they can control in a short period of time. And clearly for an execution, Xs and Os standpoint.”


Even when Belleau had to use his timeout against EL to start what he hoped was a big-time comeback, he and his coaching staff tried to “minimize the game” and give his players a more narrow focus and get the first of three needed goals before worrying about potentially two others.

And then there are the timeouts strictly used for rest, as Parker pointed out. Those often occur when a team is on a penalty kill — especially when down two men — or for teams that lack depth.


There’s not a lot of time to waste during a one-minute timeout, although with the gravity of situations that call for the use of one, it might not seem like enough time to say all that needs to be said.

“It goes by quick. But you don’t want it too long, either,” Belleau said. “Part of it is, it’s strategically the mindset, tour calling a timeout, you know you got a minute, so you got to try to figure out what you want to say, and the message you want to send to those kids, in a relatively short period of time. And that in and of itself, if you utilize the right way, could help motivate the kids.”

“Usually,” Parker said, “we’re talking as coaches a little ahead of time on what we’re thinking and what possibly could happen.”


With so little time, messages need to be short and sweet. But it’s not always just the head coach doing the talking.

“It’s like a family discussion, and it doesn’t always have to be the dad talking,” Parker said. “You know, it can come from an assistant coach. I value their input just like mine. If a player has something to say, we give him the floor also.”

“It’s usually a joint discussion with our timeouts,” Kavanaugh said. “Many times I am leading the conversation while also listening to the players on what they’re seeing on the ice, but even those times my assistant may be talking to our goaltender or discussing strategy with a specific forward line or defensive pairing.”

Unlike in basketball or football, timeouts don’t happen in every hockey game. But when they do, it’s a signal that it’s an important time in a game.

When the game clock stops, the countdown clock starts on a coach’s one minute to affect the outcome of a game.

Then the games are once again at the mercy of the ones who are actually on skates.

“There’s a lot of times, unfortunately, you know, you say what you want to talk about and the kids on the ice are the ones that dictate what’s going on,” Parker said, “and you just hope it goes your way with the strategy you just created.”



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