BANGOR — A stretch of just two games in 16 days — including its first non-playoff loss in five years — left the Bangor boys soccer team uncertain if it could regain its early season momentum in time for the playoffs.
But a more recent run of four games in eight days has rejuvenated the Rams, as evidenced by Tuesday evening’s 1-0 victory over Hampden Academy.
“After the layoff we didn’t really stay on our game, which was a problem,” said Bangor’s Bobby Reasso, who set up Collin Kimsey for the only goal of the match midway through the first half. “But one good thing about this team is we always get back up, and that’s what we’ve been doing since (the Oct. 4 loss at) Lawrence (of Fairfield).”
The defending Class A state champions controlled most of the match against a Hampden team seeking its first win over its main rival since the 2007 regional quarterfinals and also hoping to earn the division’s No. 1 seed with a victory in the mutual regular-season finale.
“We were never really able to play our game, never able to get into a slower-paced, more of a possession-style game,” said Hampden coach Josh Stevens. “Every time we would start to attack Bangor would clear the ball and make us start over again, so it was one of those games where they scored, we didn’t, and ultimately we have to start figuring out where we’re going to be in the playoffs.”
The win leaves Bangor with a 11-1-2 record good for a top-two finish in Eastern A and a berth in Friday’s 6 p.m. Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference championship match against Lewiston at Mount Ararat School in Topsham. That will follow the 4 p.m. KVAC Class A girls final between Bangor and Brunswick.
“We lost a lot of momentum with that break we had,” said Bangor coach David Patterson. “But we’ve had a fairly tough stretch where we’ve played four games in eight days, and from playing games and playing games the boys are starting to play downhill and they’re pretty confident right now.”
Hampden (10-3-1) generated its best sustained offense in the opening minutes, with John Meehan heading one shot off the crossbar after Bangor goalie Liam Harrigan made an initial save, then testing Harrigan again with a high shot five minutes into the match.
“We really thought the first team that scored would take all the momentum over to their side and basically suck the life out of the other side,” said Stevens. “We were hoping that would be us, but that wasn’t the case.”
Bangor soon took offensive command and cashed in on a restart with 20:45 left in the first half.
Reasso lofted a direct kick from the right wing over the center of the goal crease toward the far post, where Kimsey redirected the ball past Hampden goalie Logan Poirier.
“Bobby played a really great ball over the top,” said Kimsey. “We score a lot of our goals on corner kicks and set pieces, and I thought it was going to make it through because they weren’t really winning balls in the air in the box very well. I just knew we had to go after it hard.”
Strong work by Poirier (11 saves) early in the second half kept it a one-goal game, as he ranged high and to his left to gather in a well-aimed direct kick by Bangor’s Alex Shi.
While Nate Bach hit a shot off the post midway through the period to cap off a later Bangor threat, Hampden struggled to sustain its offense against the Rams’ defensive tandem of Harrigan (nine saves), Kimsey. Robby Brookings and Bobby Winchell.
Hampden’s last chance came with less than two minutes left after Bangor was whistled for a dangerous play near the penalty area, but Cameron Libbey’s indirect kick was blocked by the defensive wall — setting the stage for a Senior Night celebration by the Rams.
“I feel like we’re playing our best soccer now,” said Kimsey, “and that’s great going into the playoffs.”