In her spare time, Loren Gabel enjoys watching The Vampire Diaries on Netflix. Metaphorically speaking, the dynamic 21-year-old Canadian forward has already bared her teeth at the 2019 IIHF Ice Hockey Women’s World Championship in Espoo.
On Thursday, Gabel, a Women’s Worlds rookie, scored Canada’s first goal of the tournament on a sweet set-up from linemate Brianne Jenner. It sparked a 6-0 romp over Switzerland.
While the native of Kitchener, Ontario grew up idolizing Marie-Philip Poulin and Natalie Spooner, she’s equally thrilled to partner with Jenner and Jill Saulnier.
“They're amazing players,” Gabel said. “They make great plays and are hard workers, day in and day out. Definitely huge role models for me, and they support me every day.”
Scoring is second nature for this Clarkson University student, who is completing her degree in communications and media design with minors in both psychology and business.
Last month, Gabel won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in U.S. college hockey after potting 40 goals and 69 points in 38 games. The 164-cm, 64-kg senior edged out U.S. defender Megan Keller (Boston College), a 2018 Olympic gold medalist and three-time World Champion, and forward Annie Pankowski (Wisconsin), a two-time World Champion, for the distinction.
“They both had historic years and definitely are great players,” Gabel said. “They play well in all three zones of the ice. So to win that award was amazing, having all my teammates, coaches and support staff there, as well as my parents. Definitely a huge honour.”
She also works as a hockey dryland training coach with Active Souls Project, a Kitchener fitness centre, and a powerlifting coach with Raise the Bar: Girls Lifting Club. So there's plenty of blood, sweat and tears behind her achievements.
After capturing NCAA championships with Clarkson in 2017 and 2018, Gabel laid the groundwork for Espoo when she made her senior Canadian national team debut at November's Four Nations Cup in Saskatoon. She had a goal and an assist as Canada settled for silver behind the Americans.
It’s a measure of Gabel’s tremendous progress that she booked her plane tickets to Finland this year, while Canadian peers like Daryl Watts (Boston College), the 2018 Patty Kazmaier winner, and Victoria Bach (Markham Thunder), the 2019 CWHL rookie of the year, are still waiting their turns.
Asked to assess her fluency in Finnish, Gabel laughed: “It’s not good!” However, this isn’t the first time she’s visited the Nordic host nation.
“Finland’s really great. I was here, actually, with the East Coast Selects when I was 10 years old. So I’m kind of familiar, but kind of not. It’s been an amazing experience so far.”
She has a bright future in this sport. Yet after the CWHL stunningly announced on March 31 that it would be out of business as of May 1, she doesn’t yet know where she’ll lace up her skates next year, although she was drafted eighth overall by the NWHL’s Buffalo Beauts in 2018.
“I was hoping to play in the CWHL, but that’s definitely not going to happen. Hopefully I can play alongside some of my teammates here, grow as a player, and develop both on and off the ice. Hopefully I'll get the chance to do that somewhere.”
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of work to be done at the Metro Areena.
Gabel played 14:55 in the victory over Switzerland. It’ll be instructive to monitor her ice time under head coach Perry Pearn as this tournament progresses. She’s doing communications homework in between games and practices, but she’s really here to get a world-class education in international women’s hockey – and, with luck, Canada’s first world title since 2012.
Next up on Saturday are the Americans, the winners of four straight Women's Worlds titles and reigning Olympic gold medalists. Will Loren Gabel take a bite out of Canada’s ultimate rivals?
Stay tuned. (Not to Netflix. TSN or the NHL Network, please.)