By Matt Jenkins
---- — MARBLEHEAD — Peabody boys lacrosse coach Anthony O’Donnell has a pretty high opinion about senior Keifer Heckman, the Tanners’ high-scoring attackman.
Heckman, who recently became Peabody’s all-time leading scorer, provided his usual output yesterday afternoon against Northeastern Conference power Marblehead, but his hat trick wasn’t enough as the Tanners fell 9-3 at Piper Field.
A young Magician whose job is the exact opposite as Heckman’s ended up stealing the show.
Sophomore goalie Nathan Maselek made several key stops — especially in the third quarter when Peabody was trying to make a game of it — and found an admirer in O’Donnell.
“Keifer is a great player. He creates a lot of offense and that lets everyone else get open. I don’t know if there’s a better player in our league than Keifer,” O’Donnell said. “Today, their goalie was better than Keifer.”
Maselek was sharp early, holding the Tanners scoreless through the first quarter, and only allowed one goal in each of the final three quarters.
Peabody put the heat on in the third quarter. Heckman’s second goal cut the Marblehead advantage to 4-2, then he broke free on the left side of the crease shortly after for a point-blank opportunity, but Maselek stood him up and kept momentum out of the equation for the Tanners.
“Nathan stood on his head in the second half,” Marblehead coach John Wilkens said. “What can you say? He made some fantastic saves in the end there. Peabody has some really good athletes and No. 25 (Heckman) is a hell of a ballplayer and (Maselek) just made a great stop on him there.”
The Magicians have now won nine straight games and improved to 10-3. They’ve been able to continue piling up wins despite being a little banged up. Brooks Tyrrell was unavailable for yesterday’s game due to a broken thumb and Ian Maag is playing through a shoulder injury.
Tyrrell and Maag are two of Marblehead’s biggest scoring threats, but Dean Fader picked up the slack against Peabody, recording four goals and dishing out one assist.
Brad Knittle added two goals and an assist and Trevor Jones scored a pair of goals.
“I thought we did a great job on faceoffs and Dean Fader did a great job at attack in the first half just on sheer hustle and wanting the ball,” Wilkens said. “Our defense looked good today and I thought everyone played as a cohesive unit. We gotta work on some basics, like ground balls. We got a little tired at the end and it kind of looked like a field hockey game out there.”
Peabody, which got assists from Nick Ouellette, Josh Fiore and Erik Hennessey, slipped to 8-5, still needing two wins to qualify for the postseason.
The road will not be easy with Swampscott on Thursday and games remaining against North Andover, Danvers, Chelmsford, North Reading and Salem.
It wasn’t easy for the Tanners to have to play NEC front-runners Beverly and Marblehead in back-to-back games either, but O’Donnell was pleased with the way his team responded after a sluggish loss (16-4) against the Panthers.
“I was afraid. Beverly was a really poor outing for us and what was disappointing was some of the times the kids had given up running back to the hole. Today we didn’t. We had a meeting and told the kids to let the Beverly game go. That was our one bad one. If we dwelled on that one the rest of the season would go in the tank,” O’Donnell said.
“We’ve been saying all along that making the tournament isn’t a goal, it’s an expectation. They won’t let it go by without making an effort.”