Pomperaug boys drop tourney heartbreaker

There was a pretty goal. There was an ugly goal. There was a bench-clearing melee involving players and spectators. But in the end, for the second time in a week, it was heartbreaking finish for the Pomperaug High boys soccer team, which lost to Hamden, 2-1, Tuesday night in a penalty-kick shootout in the opening round of the Class LL state tournament. Despite playing with a man-advantage for the final 31 minutes, 17 seconds, including 20 minutes of sudden-death overtime, Pomperaug was unable to score the tiebreaking goal. That set the stage for a penalty-kick shootout which saw Hamden make all five of its shots. Pomperaug nearly matched that, making its first three shots. But when Hamden goalie Jon Moore dove to his left to save a shot by Tim Schaake, that proved to be decisive, as Hamden's fifth and final shooter, Nicholas Hamasian, made his penalty shot to clinch the shootout victory, 5-3. Pomperaug (11-6-2) ended its season with three consecutive games decided by shootouts. It beat Kolbe Cathedral in the first of those in the South-West Conference quarterfinals, but lost in a penalty kick shootout to Newtown last week in the SWC semifinals. "We shouldn't have gone to penalty kicks," Pomperaug coach Joe Mancini said. "We were outplaying them, even when they had 11 players." Hamden (10-4-3), the No. 17 seed, advances to a second-round matchup against the No. 1 seed, undefeated Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference champion Westhill of Stamford. Pomperaug, the No. 16 seed, will have until next fall to think about how its season ended with back-to-back shootout losses. "We had some opportunities," Pomperaug's Dan Fabian said. "We just couldn't put the ball away. It's been like that all season." The one time Pomperaug did capitalize came on a highlight-reel goal set up by Fabian, who with his back to the goal and to a Hamden defender, back-tapped a blind pass to Joel Rubino, who was making a run down the right side. The pass hit Rubino in stride, and set him free behind the Hamden defense for the tying goal early in the second half. As pretty as that goal was, Hamden's first-half goal was ugly, the result of a shot by John Tebes which deflected off the hand of a Pomperaug defender and past Pomperaug goalie Tom Berlenbach. If the ball hadn't gone into the goal, Hamden would have been awarded a penalty kick. "The sad part is they didn't even score a nice goal," Mancini said. Tempers began to heat up midway through the second half. Shortly after two Hamden players had received yellow cards, Hamden's Reggie Ulmer was upset about a no-call after being tackled by Pomperaug's Eric Pattison, and threw a punch at Pattison. Ulmer was ejected with a red card, while Pattison received a yellow. Pomperaug fans behind the Hamden bench then exchanged words with Hamden players. According to Mancini, one of those players, Patrick Wildes, who was sitting out the mandatory 10 minutes after receiving a yellow card, jumped the fence to confront the Pomperaug fans. That caused fans to stream toward the area while both teams also headed toward the confrontation. Mancini was upset that Wildes wasn't ejected for jumping the fence. "He hopped the fence while he was serving his yellow card," Mancini said. Because he wasn't ejected, Wildes was later able to participate in the shootout, scoring Hamden's fourth goal. Hamden coach Joaquin Rodriguez had a different version of what happened. "Somebody jumped over the fence just to calm the parents down," Rodriguez said. "None of the player did. The players just went to the end of the fence." Rodriguez blamed the incident on his team's inexperience. Hamden started five sophomores, and hasn't had much experience playing in the postseason. "Tensions were high," Rodriguez said. "We're not used to being here. They're still learning." NOTES: Fabian, Pomperaug's gifted all-state midfielder/forward, said he is being recruited by Davidson and has applied early decision to the North Carolina school . . . Freshman Brian Schaake came in to play goal for Pomperaug in the shootout after spending the entire game on the bench . . . This was Pomperaug's first time in the Class LL tournament, after previously playing in Class L.

Hamden (10-4-3) "� 1 0 0 0 (5) -- 2

Pomperaug (11-6-2) 0 1 0 0 (3) -- 1

SCORING: 1. (H) John Tebes 28:46; 2. (P) Joel Rubino (Daniel Fabian) 46:16.

PENALTY KICK SHOOTOUT: Hamden: Patrick Grimaldi (G), Robert Traester (G), Stephen Zapata (G), Patrick Wildes (G), Nicholas Hamasian (G); Pomperaug: Shayan Riahi (G), Rubino (G), Mathew Rushton (G), Timothy Schaake (no goal).

SHOTS: Hamden 9, Pomperaug 14; SAVES: Jon Moore (H) 9, Tom Berlenbach (P) 4; CORNER KICKS: Hamden 3, Pomperaug 9.