HAMPDEN, Maine — The Bangor boys soccer team had watched Hampden Academy flirt with the tying goal for nearly 30 minutes of the second half Thursday night.
But only after the Broncos finally overcame frustration created by the crossbar, the goalposts and a fair bit of inaccuracy to score the equalizer was Bangor able to regroup offensively, with Nate Bach’s goal with 5:42 remaining lifting the Rams to a 2-1 victory amid damp and sometimes rainy conditions at the Weatherbee Complex.
“They were playing really well and we just needed to relax,” said Bach, a junior forward who has three goals in Bangor’s 2-0 start this season. “We just kept telling each other to relax and play the way we always do.”
Hampden, whose first nine shots of the final period either sailed high, wide or off various parts of the goal’s border, finally broke through against Bangor sophomore goalie Stanley Clarke to forge a 1-1 tie with 10:27 left.
The Broncos generated a moment of sustained control that produced a blast off the crossbar by sophomore forward Nick Gilpin, and in the ensuing scramble junior forward Tristan Gardner left-footed a shot into the upper left corner of the net to level the match.
Hampden (1-1) seemingly was poised to build on that momentum, but Bangor countered moments later.
Bach gained possession in the offensive end with just one defender in front of him, then dribbled his way into open space before grounding a shot that diving Hampden goalie Isaiah Bess — the Penquis Valley of Milo transfer playing his first year in net after starring as a forward for the Patriots — deflected but could not control as the ball caromed off the inside of the left post and trickled across the goal line.
“I saw that there was only one person in front of me, and I tried to go one way and take it the other way and catch him off balance,” said Bach. “I tried to put in on the right side, but I really didn’t do it. I got lucky, I guess.
“From what I saw I definitely thought it got across the line, but (Bess) did a great job trying to save it.”
Hampden finished with a 20-13 shots advantage, but just nine of the Broncos’ shots were on goal compared to eight for Bangor.
“We had more than one that rang off the crossbar, we just couldn’t get it underneath the crossbar,” said Hampden coach Josh Stevens. “Plenty of opportunities, plenty of shots, just nothing in the back of the net.”
Bangor took a 1-0 lead 10 minutes into the match when senior midfielder Hunter Boyce headed home a direct kick from deep along the left wing by junior defender Liam Harrigan.
“Liam sent me a perfect ball from the left side,” said Boyce. “It found my head and I had to get it up over the keeper and I hit it hard enough that it slipped through.”
Clarke, a sophomore who started in net for Bangor’s freshman team last fall, preserved that lead with two spectacular saves on the same play barely a minute after Boyce’s goal.
Bangor was whistled for tripping in the penalty box, earning Gardner a penalty kick, but not only was his initial shot stopped when Clarke dove to his left, but the Bangor goalie also made a lunging save on Gardner’s follow-up attempt.
“I thought he might go to my left, but I didn’t want to go that way too soon,” said Clarke. “I finally dove to my left and stopped the shot but I let up quite a rebound. I thought he might kick that to my right, but I just dove again.”