Weston boys win shootout

SOUTHBURY - The Pomperaug High boys soccer team had been living a charmed life this season, winning a variety of games with goals scored either late in regulation or in overtime. The Panthers' string of good fortune added up to a No. 2 seed for the 2005 SWC playoffs, their best conference finish in Joe Mancini's five seasons as coach.

That good fortune ended on Monday night, however, and allowed one of the teams Pomperaug had swiped a game from earlier this fall to advance to the SWC semifinals for the first time.

Seventh-seeded Weston sent the game to overtime on a goal with 4:14 left in regulation, then survived a player ejection, a near-goal by Pomperaug in OT, and a penalty kick shootout, coming away from
Edward Arum Field with a 2-1 win in a quarterfinal round game.

"I guess our luck finally ran out," said Pomperaug forward Nolan Riley . "We were fortunate with so many of our close games this season that went down to the wire. You kind of thought it would happen again tonight but it just didn't go in our favor."

It almost did.

Though Pomperaug (12-5-0) was outplayed for much of regulation time, the Panthers got a goal from Artim Muaremi in the fifth minute, then entered the final five minutes of regulation with that same 1-0 lead.

Even when Conrad Shrager 's 23-yard direct kick eluded Pomperaug keeper Dan DeBlasio at 75:48, allowing Weston to knot the match at 1-1, Pomperaug still had an opportune chance to win it. Shrager, Weston's best player, was ejected 21 seconds shy of overtime, forcing the Trojans to endure the remainder of the game with just 10 players.

Pomperaug finally began to assert itself in the first overtime, with Nolan being narrowly denied by Weston keeper Mark Shaw on a ball that was played long and in front for Nolan to run on to. Shaw slid out and covered the ball, just as Nolan made contact.

Then as the horn was sounding to end of the first 10-minute overtime, Micky Verini appeared to win the game for Pomperaug, heading in long throw-in from the right side by Chris Comeau . But the officials, following a short discussion, ruled that the ball had not cross the goal line before time ran out.

Following a second scoreless OT period, Weston won the penalty kick tiebreaker, 4-3, as Weston sophomore goalkeeper Jared Shaner came on to replace Shaw and held Pomperaug to three goals in five tries.

Pomperaug, which had already lost starting sweeper Ian Gartnar to a season-ending injury, lost two more defenders, Scott Besada (knee) and Eric Pattison (eye) to injuries in the first eight minutes of Monday's game. The Panthers held together, however, with DeBlasio commanding his area and Daniel Fabian giving his team much-needed stability in the midfield.

Michael Squillante , Peter Scher , Alex Toutoungi and Patrick Squillante scored on Weston's first four penalties to give their side a 4-2 advantage in the tiebreaker. Pomperaug drew within 4-3 in the fourth round as Fabian converted, then had the chance to pull even after DeBlasio denied Max Durling with a diving save.

But Shaner, who had sat on the bench for all 100 minutes while backing up Shaw, made his second save of the tiebreaker against Muaremi to end it.

Weston (11-5-1) 0 1 0 0 - 1

Pomperaug (12-5) 1 0 0 0 - 1

(Weston wins penalty-kick tiebreaker, 4-3)

SCORING: 1. P, Artim Muaremi (direct kick), 4:14. 2. W, Conrad Shrager (direct kick), 75:48.

SHOTS: Weston 18, Pomperaug 3. SAVES: Mark Shaw (W) 1, Dan DeBlasio (P) 9. CORNER KICKS: Weston 4, Pomperaug 1.