Boys’ soccer playoffs: Hampden dismisses EL

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HAMPDEN — The seniors on the Hampden Academy boys’ soccer team have been playing together for a long time.

Their chemistry, especially up front and in the midfield, is unmistakable.

Tristan Gardner, Noah Parker, Dan Good and company showed off their relentless, attacking style on Tuesday night, setting the tone for third-seeded Hampden Academy’s 3-0 Eastern Maine Class A quarterfinal victory over No. 6 Edward Little of Auburn.

Gardner scored twice, while Parker provided a goal and an assist as the Broncos (12-3) advanced to a semifinal match against No. 2 Brunswick, a 3-0 winner over No. 7 Messalonskee of Oakland on Tuesday.

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“It’s been about eight years that we’ve been playing together, so I guess we’re used to each other,” said Gardner, who boosted his goal total this season to 27 for the defending EM champs.

Coach Josh Stevens’ Broncos, who beat the Red Eddies 3-1 on Oct. 11, kept the pressure throughout. HA outshot EL 30-8, putting 13 shots on goal.

“We know the good chances are going to come, we just need to take advantage of those chances,” said Stevens, who said he believes his team is beginning to hit its stride.

“Earlier in the season, we would get those chances and we wouldn’t do anything with them,” he explained. “We’re starting to score and if we score a couple of goals, we feel like we can win any game.”

Edward Little (8-6-1) held its own, but found itself reacting to deal with HA’s aggressive offense.

Coach Matthew Andreasen’s Red Eddies received 10 saves from Llewellyn Jensen, who was subjected to a barrage of shots. He rejected a Parker penalty kick with 24:31 left in the contest to preserve a 2-0 deficit.

Kaleb Main, Ben Steele, Seth Sterling and Patrick Luizzo stayed busy attempting to control the Broncos’ crafty forwards.

Hampden did a solid job limiting scoring opportunities by EL, including speedy striker Maslah Hassan, who had three or four quality scoring chances.

“They have one of the best goal-scorers in the state [Hassan] on their team and the idea is to close the space and not give him a clean look,” Stevens said.

The Broncos’ defense was spearheaded by Jackson Gilmore, Wil Huston, Brandon Chasse and Nick Chasse, while junior ’keeper Kyle Townsend came up big when needed.

Townsend rejected a hard, close-range shot by Jarod Norcross Plourde in the first half, then thwarted Elijah Roe’s point-blank attempt in the second half.

“Kyle made some great saves,” Gardner said. “He really earned the shutout, so that was great.”

The Broncos grabbed the lead less than six minutes in. Parker lofted a corner kick in front of the goal, where Gardner pounced on it and banged it home at the 30:25 mark.

HA extended its lead during a dominating seven-minute span later in the half. Parker and Good worked a give-and-go in the middle of the field off a quick restart and Parker hammered a shot into the lower right corner of the net at 15:54.

“When you’re able to possess the ball like that, it makes it so much easier for you and it’s fun,” Parker said. “You settle down and you just play simple.”

Gardner made it 3-0 with 19:20 remaining when Parker threaded the needle with a low through-ball and Gardner slammed a low shot under Jensen.

“Especially with [Gardner], once you turn in the midfield and you look up, you always see him running,” Parker said of knowing where to find his teammate.

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