BANGOR – When Husson coach Mitch Ellisen took Sean Fleming out midway through the first half of Wednesday’s game to calm the emotional, screaming forward – and avoid a red card – the Braves lost more than height, muscle and skill up front in their game against Maine Maritime Academy.
They lost all that emotion.
“We were real frustrated when Sean came out. He is a big-target man,” said Brave forward Kevin Burton. “We lost our way. When he came back in the second half, we were back to playing our game. He fires everyone up.”
After eking out a 1-0 first half lead, the Braves, with Fleming back, blasted into the second period, scoring 9 minutes into the half and notching two rapid-fire goals with 20 minutes left to post a convincing 4-0 victory in the Maine Athletic Conference men’s soccer semifinals.
Husson will face the University of Maine-Farmington at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Thomas College in Waterville. UMF defeated St. Joseph’s of Standish 3-1 in the other semifinal Wednesday.
In a physical game in which six yellow cards were handed out, Ellisen didn’t hesitate to pull Fleming when he received one for knocking down a player and then argued the call. The loss not only hurt the Braves’ camaraderie, but also their offense.
“Sean has a temper. He lost his cool,” Ellisen said. “Sean and Joey [Melanson] are a team up front. [But] Melanson didn’t start because of a groin pull. Sean was looking for his partner and didn’t have him. It was hard on him.”
Soon after Fleming returned and the battered Melanson entered the game, they connected to put Husson up 2-0. From the left wing Melanson passed to Fleming, who turned an MMA player and crossed to Burton at the goalmouth. Burton played it off his chest and when MMA goalie Michael Bills came out, knocked it past him.
“I took a stupid card. Coach took me out to let me relax. I needed to,” Fleming said. “When we came out in the second, one goal wasn’t enough. After last year our goal is to not be disappointed; to show people that we’re for real.”
The Braves, who have not made the MAC finals in five years, made their point Wednesday by shaking off a first half in which they let the Mariners sprint around them. In the second, they won nearly every ball as they outshot MMA of Castine 14-5 in the game.
When Braves leading scorer Richard Duffy found himself unmarked some 20 yards out 21 minutes into the half, he fired a shot that ricocheted off the crossbar – and Fleming was there to finish.
A minute later, Gordon Ferguson scored his fourth goal of the year – and third from more than 30 yards out – on a rising shot that sailed over MMA’s defense, Bills’ head and just under the crossbar. The giddy Scotsman promptly turned and did a somersault.
“He’s been working on that chip ball over the defense for the past two years,” Ellisen said. “Now it’s going in.”
Ferguson’s score was merely dressing. The second goal was all the Braves needed to deflate the Mariners.
“They’re real physical [and] it got the best of us,” MMA coach Michael Keller said.
Mark Cuccinelli stopped five shots as Husson improved to 14-3-1, 8-0 in the MAC while MMA finished 8-9-1, 3-4-1.