HAMPDEN, Maine — There’s nothing like a hard-fought match between rivals to prepare teams for postseason play in any sport, as the Hampden Academy and Bangor boys soccer teams experienced Tuesday evening.
That the Broncos and Rams battled to a 1-1 tie through two overtimes in their mutual regular-season finale on the artificial turf at the Weatherbee complex should have come as no surprise.
They played to a 2-2 stalemate in their earlier meeting at Bangor on Sept. 13, and the teams have now combined for nine ties this fall, with Hampden finishing its schedule with an 8-1-5 record while Bangor is 8-2-4.
Hampden will finish either second or third in the final Eastern Maine Class A Heal point rankings, while Bangor is expected to finish fifth in the division.
“This is one of the better games we’ve played all year,” said Hampden midfielder Cooper Antone, one of seven Broncos’ seniors honored during pregame ceremonies. “We really stepped up to the occasion, especially because this is senior night and everybody got motivated, and Bangor’s always a tough match.”
Bangor also was content that its performance against Hampden should put the Rams in a positive mindset as it readies for its regional quarterfinal next week.
“I thought we played well,” said Rams’ sophomore striker Nate Bach. “We had been going downhill for a while but I think we’re getting back on track now.”
Each team’s leading scorer, Bach and Hampden sophomore Tristan Gardner, accounted for the lone goals in a match that featured plenty of 50-50 balls and solid defensive play on both ends.
Bach gave Bangor a 1-0 lead with 6:36 left in the first half, less than a moment after Hampden mounted its best scoring bid of the game’s first 40 minutes — a header by Gardner that sailed over the crossbar.
Bangor then worked the ball down to the other end of the field along the right wing, where Ben Loiselle slipped the ball between two defenders to Bach. Bach popped the ball over Hampden goalie Zach Gilpin, who was sprawled on the ground about 8 yards out from the goal line after a collision left him clutching his ribs, and a Broncos’ defender couldn’t get to the ball before it crossed the goal line.
“I couldn’t even see the goal really,” said Bach. “I just had to touch it, and it just went over the goalie.”
Hampden nearly tied the game with 12:45 left in the second half, only to have Bangor goalie Colton Markevich dive across the crease to stop a header by Gardner that looked destined for the back of the net.
“I just saw it coming in and I went for it and hit it out,” said Markevich.
Gardner scored the equalizer with 8:06 left in regulation time, redirecting the rebound of a shot by Antone into an open net.
Hampden’s Erik Hanson established control of the ball in the left corner, then passed to Antone who was angling toward the near goalpost. Antone took several dribbles toward the goal before grounding a hard shot that Markevich blocked but did not control.
The ball caromed toward the center of the crease, where Gardner was waiting to finish the play with a left-footed redirection.
“I saw Coop with wide-open space in the middle and I knew he was going to shoot,” said Gardner. “All I was thinking about was getting that rebound off the goalie because I knew Coop was going to put it on frame because he has a great shot.”
Gardner had one more threatening bid in the final minute of the second half, only to have his close-range blast go just off target.
Hampden also had the best chance of the two 5-minute overtimes, a knuckle-balling kick from outside the 18 toward the right goalpost by Ben Foster that Markevich blocked away.
The Broncos finished the match with a 19-12 shots advantage. Markevich made eight saves for Bangor while Gilpin made five stops for Hampden.