Firmly entrenched on top of the PHF scoring race, Loren Gabel has quickly risen to elite status. Emerging as the finest free agent signing this season, her brilliant hockey resume includes winning both, the Patty Kazmaier Award, and the NCAA Frozen Four championship with the Clarkson Golden Knights. With celebrated standing as a prime time player, she may certainly hold the key towards the Boston Pride’s dream of an unprecedented three-peat.
Closing the month of January with the All-Star Game, Gabel entered the event with a league-best 24 points. Worth noting, her finest performance involved a league record six point outburst. Scoring twice and adding four assists, along with all the assists for team captain Jillian Dempsey’s hat trick, the Pride enjoyed a 7-5 win on December 11, 2022, versus the Buffalo Beauts. Fittingly, Dempsey and Gabel were recognized as the First and Second Stars of the Week.
Among nine Pride players earning an opportunity to participate in the midseason classic, Gabel was joined on Team Canada by Élizabeth Giguere, also a former teammate with Clarkson, goaltender Corinne Schroeder, plus Kaleigh Fratkin, a five-time All-Star and captain for the Canadian contingent. As the event also featured members from the expansion Montreal Force, a highly historic context took shape. The PHF’s first All-Star event contested in Canada, after the 2022 edition was relocated to Buffalo from Toronto due to pandemic concerns, it proved well worth the wait.
Held at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC), located inside the iconic Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, the event served as a coming out party for Gabel. With such a brilliant skill set shining brightly during one of the Federation’s biggest showcases, a gathering of talent from every franchise on-hand, the event was contested as a round robin. Comprising a unique All-Star format of three rosters, teams representing Canada, USA and the World, Gabel scored in three games, amassing four points. The high quality of the games proved to be part of a much grander narrative. As the entire weekend was filled with events, from a gala at the Hockey Hall of Fame, to an instructional camp with young female players, a sense of community quickly became an essential theme.
“The overall All-Star experience was surreal. I think adding the visit and banquet, to the event at the Hockey Hall of Fame was truly amazing. It was just an overall great setting to start our All-Star weekend but also promote the PHF and women’s hockey.”
Raised in Kitchener, Ontario, also the celebrated hometown of revered Hall of Famers such as Howie Meeker, Milt Schmidt, Darryl Sittler and Scott Stevens, Gabel gained the opportunity to share another common thread with the aforementioned. As the venue of this year’s All-Star Game enhanced the encompassing theme of history, gracing the ice inside Maple Leaf Gardens provided Gabel with a treasured achievement, one poised to provide a lifetime of memories.
Marking the first professional hockey All-Star Game held at Maple Leaf Gardens since the NHL played there in 1968, an event notable as it marked Bobby Orr’s first-ever appearance as an All-Star, Gabel staked her own claim 55 years later. Emerging as the event’s brightest star, her superlative skill set resulting in the recording of at least one point in every game for Canada, she proved essential in the All-Star Final.
Facing off versus Team World, Gabel contributed a pair of point, propelling Canada to victory in a pulse pounding 3-2 final. With Team World grabbing the lead twice, Gabel shifted the tide of momentum in the Canadians favor. As Team World enjoyed the first lead of the game for more than three minutes, she assisted on Brittany Howard’s goal. Coincidentally, both Gabel and Howard, also in her first PHF season, have been neck-in-neck for the scoring title.
After Metropolitan Riveters forward Anna Kilponen restored the lead for Team World, Howard and Toronto Six linemate Kati Tabin collaborated in heroic fashion, assisting on Gabel’s game tying goal, making her the only player to score in each game for Team Canada. Of note, Jade Downie-Landry, a star rookie for the Montreal Force, recorded the game-winning tally, a milestone goal in her promising career.
Gaining the All-Star MVP Award, quite possibly foreshadowing a further haul of hockey hardware before season’s end, the chance for Gabel and teammates alike to showcase their skills inside Maple Leaf Gardens was one to be cherished. With the history of the Maple Leafs an essential facet in the hockey culture of Ontario, the All-Star milestone took on greater meaning.
“Having grown up in Ontario it was definitely special playing at Maple Leaf Gardens for this event. I played a game there a couple of years ago but playing there for the All-Star games and representing Canada at the event was truly remarkable and something I will never forget. It was also amazing to know that we were the first women’s hockey All-Star event to be played at Maple Leaf Gardens.”
With the All-Star heroics an exclamation point on an exciting first half of the season, team spirit and friendship proved equally essential for an ebullient Gabel. As the Pride were represented on all three rosters, teammates throughout a stellar season becoming respected rivals for a celebrated showcase, all geared to help their teams win, an amiable element of boasting among the rewards, the feeling of unity during one magical day in Toronto provided an unforgettable experience.
“I think having several of my Boston teammates, whether they were on my team or on a different team made the experience that much more memorable because I got to share it with them. It felt amazing to be part of the winning team and share that moment with everyone on Team Canada. It is great that we got the W because we now have bragging rights against my fellow Boston teammates.”
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated“
Featured image by Curtis Martin