Allison Coomey knows what it's like to be a part of important hockey games. As an assistant coach on the Boston University women's team, Coomey has worked with the Terriers the past nine years, winning five Hockey East tournaments, and twice making it to the Frozen Four.
Coomey chatted with USA Hockey and offered her advice on the kind of preparation necessary before a playoff game.
USA Hockey: Is the coaches’ message different before a playoff game compared to a regular-season game?
Allison Coomey: Well, as a coach, you want to be consistent. You want to talk about the consequences and make sure everyone is aware of them. But you do want to make sure everyone is still having fun, and at the end of the day, it's still a game.
USA Hockey: Is it good for younger players to be in pressure situations?
Coomey: It's definitely good to know how it feels to lose, and at the end of the day, as a coach, you just want your players to play as well as they can. Sometimes they're just not the better team. It's just making your players realize that if they play their best, they’ll be happy with their performance. It's a good lesson to learn how losing feels at a young age, and when you feel that way, it makes you more excited for that next season. Having that experience of losing will motivate you.
USA Hockey: How do you stay even-keeled as a coach?
Coomey: That's the hard part. Every season is different, and you’ve got to keep it in perspective. It is our livelihood, but it’s also a game. It's important to not make it entirely about wins and losses. It's tough for coaches at any level, because of how invested you are in it. You have to show kids consistency with your approach, making practices consistent, and the kids will feel that way. If you don’t get too high or low, it helps kids play through adversity, and perform in a way that's not too up and down.
USA Hockey: Should your prep be more intensive?
Coomey: It depends on who you're playing. At the end of the day, if you're working on the things that your team needs to work on, or improving on the things that you're good at, if you're focusing on 'team,’ if you're practicing that, it's more beneficial than what any other team is going to bring. I'm a believer that if you work on your game, the opponent will have to play your game, and you make them adapt to what you're doing.
USA Hockey: Are there any tips to give players for dealing with nerves?
Coomey: If a team is more positive about their approach to the game with each other, that helps. When things go wrong and your first reaction is to point to other people on the ice, that’s not helpful. It's a team sport, and you have to win as a team. The more positive you can be the better.
USA Hockey: As a coach, how much do you have to protect against doing too much?
Coomey: It's important as coaches, when you're on the bench during the game, to try not to let the refs or other factors gets in your head. The kids look to you and react to what you do. If you're yelling at the refs, or if you're yelling at your players to do things, it fosters more of a negative energy. Trying to stay positive is important, and also just keeping calm. Games should be for the players to go out and execute what you taught them over the week. It shouldn't be situation where you're trying to teach new things from the bench.
QUESTION: In a game with two referees, during a stoppage both teams accidentally send six skaters out during the line change (both teams have their goalkeeper in). The ref dropping the puck does not notice both teams have too many players on the ice and drops the puck. The attacking team scores after the face-off and the goal stands. Is this the correct call?
ANSWER: A team cannot score a legal goal while having too many players on the ice. However, since it is the responsibility of the officials to ensure the proper number of players are on the ice prior to dropping the puck, the team with the extra players should not be penalized.
QUESTION: I’m allowed to have 18 skaters dress for a game, but can I have alternates that are allowed to practice and not play in games? My team is the lowest available level in our program for our age. I have two players that are on the bubble and would like them to continue to develop as an alternate on top of my 18 skaters and 1 goalie. Is this allowed?
ANSWER: The Ask the Official forum is dedicated to the Playing Rules of USA Hockey, which do not govern practices. Please submit your question to your local hockey association, USAH Affiliate Body, or District Registrar for an answer to this question. Contact information can be found in the USA Hockey Annual Guide.
QUESTION: After the whistle a player takes 4 - 6 strides towards an opponent, launching himself at him in a violent fashion but not making contact due to the opponent moving out of the way. What penalty would/should be called if any? Charging is not an option based on the wording of contact having to be made. Would Attempt to Injure be a valid in the situation?
ANSWER: Contact must be made to assess a player a penalty for Charging. However, if the game officials determine that the player was deliberately attempting to injure the opponent, then a Match penalty could be assessed.
QUESTION: When is the puck considered tied up and the whistle should be blown stopping play. Does it have to be covered up or can he have it frozen between his arm and chest.
ANSWER: Play should be stopped when the officials determine that the goalkeeper has possession and control of the puck.
QUESTION: Should players ineligible for the game be crossed off the scoresheet at the conclusion of the game?
ANSWER: The game-sheet team rosters should list all players who were present, dressed and eligible to participate in the game. All missing, sick or injured players should be removed the team roster after the game concludes.
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