SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

April 30, 2013

Brotherly Love: Heckman, Ouellette lead tight-knit Tanners


The Salem News

---- — Lax Lowdown

Matt Jenkins

PEABODY — There’s a real sense of family surrounding the Peabody High boys lacrosse team, a togetherness that blossomed in the preseason and has only continued to grow since the season began a month ago.

No one symbolizes that family theme more than senior attackmen Keifer Heckman and Nick Ouellette.

Stepbrothers whose parents met through Peabody Youth Lacrosse in 2006, Heckman and Ouellette have become the most dangerous scoring duo on the North Shore.

Through 12 games, Heckman and Ouellette have combined for 138 points. The pair connected for the two goals that allowed Heckman to tie, then break Peabody’s all-time scoring record over the weekend against Smithfield, R.I.

Scoring records are typically viewed as strictly individual accomplishments, but the stepbrothers took a different look at Heckman’s ability to supplant Greg Welch as the Tanners’ all-time leading scorer.

“Truly, I wasn’t thinking about it; I was just thinking about winning,” said Heckman. “We’re all a family and we’re all joined together. The whole family helped me out; it wasn’t just me who got it.”

Heckman scored four goals in Peabody’s 8-6 win over Gloucester yesterday to increase his program-high total to 235 points — 10 more than Welch, who is currently an assistant coach with the Tanners.

Adding to the excitement of the record-breaking moment was the way it all went down.

Heckman missed out on a chance to set the mark at home, but it seems fitting that he got it done while the Tanners were together at Bryant University for a team bonding experience that included watching the Bulldogs practice and play a game against Sacred Heart. On Saturday, Peabody played Smithfield, the two-time defending Division 3 state champs of Rhode Island, at Bryant.

The Tanners came up with a 17-4 win, and in the first quarter Heckman assisted on an Ouellette goal to tie Welch’s record. Later in the quarter it was Ouellette’s turn to set up Heckman, which produced the memorable goal.

“It was really exciting,” said Ouellette, who has 36 goals and 27 assists this year. “I feel like in a way I kind of got it too, helping him get the goal and having him help me get the (record-tying) goal.”

Peabody coach Anthony O’Donnell felt the moment — both Heckman’s record-breaking performance and the overall weekend — will become a long-lasting memory for the team.

“It was real emotional for everybody,” O’Donnell said. “Everybody felt a jolt of excitement and enthusiasm. It was a great weekend.”

Over the past few years, Ouellette and Heckman have developed quite a bond. They were soccer and lacrosse teammates when they were young, but were mostly just acquaintances. Things started to change in 2006.

Bill Heckman, Keifer’s father, was coaching their lacrosse team and needed an assistant. Nick’s mother, Carole Ouellette, volunteered. Three years later they were married.

“We were kind of on the same teams, but weren’t really that friendly,” Ouellette said.

All of that changed very quickly. The Peabody duo grew from acquaintances into two of the Tanners’ leaders on a close-knit team.

They’re each excited to be continuing their lacrosse careers together next year at Southern New Hampshire University. But first they hope to lead the Tanners, who are currently 8-4, deep into the postseason.

“This is the closest group of guys I’ve ever been with,” Ouellette said. “Everyone looks out for each other on and off the field.”

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Every year it seems the Northeastern Conference boys lacrosse title comes down to Beverly and Marblehead. Those two teams will be at it again today in a must-see battle at Marblehead’s Piper Field (4 p.m.).

The Magicians (7-3) are riding a six-game win streak, having gone unbeaten since losing to the Panthers (9-1) in Beverly.

Recent history hasn’t been on Marblehead’s side, though. The Magicians are looking for their first win over the Panthers since early April of 2009. Beverly has defeated Marblehead in eight straight meetings.

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Lax Lowdown, a column on North Shore high school lacrosse, runs each Tuesday during the spring sports season in The Salem News. Contact staff writer Matt Jenkins at 978-338-2648, by e-mail at mjenkins@salemnews.com, or follow him on Twitter @MattJenkins_SN.