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Buckle up for the Gabel-Giguère connection

Team Canada’s skilled forwards have already made an impact in the PHF

Michelle Jay

The PHF has been a league of dynamic duos for a few years now. Last season, the headline duo was MVP Kennedy Marchment and star newcomer Taylor Girard of the Connecticut Whale. Their chemistry at even strength helped the Whale reach heights they hadn’t seen since the 2015-16 season. We may only be one weekend into the 2022-23 season, but fans are already buzzing about the next great prolific pairing of forwards — Loren Gabel and Élizabeth Giguère of the Boston Pride.

We can file this one under “surprising to absolutely no one” but that doesn’t mean this hasn’t been a joy to watch. The Pride’s two Canadian national team forwards played together for two years — 2017-18 and 2018-19 at Clarkson University. They were the top two scorers on the Golden Knights for those years and in 2018-19 they were one (Giguère, 73) and two (Gabel, 69) in the nation in scoring.

So, no one was surprised sparks were flying in the preseason when Gabel and Giguère were on the ice together. Even in a small sample size of a few dozen shifts, it was easy to see that this pair was going to pile up points if they got to play together in the regular season.

The Pride have started their season 2-0-0 and have outscored the opposition 6-0. Giguère and Gabel have a big part of that strong start and gave Pride fans a lot to be excited about at the Warrior Ice Arena. Together, they have scored four of the Pride’s six goals and share primary points on two of them — both scored at evens. They also have a combined 21 shots between them through two games, which is an intimidating shot volume even in a sample size of 120 minutes.

There’s so much to love about the duo of Giguère and Gabel. Gabel has the ability to pull a rabbit out of a hat — or a scoring chance out of a broken play — with her stickhandling and can score from anywhere inside the offensive zone. She’s a left-handed shot and has quick eyes and quick feet in a 5-foot-4 frame.

Giguère, on the other hand, is an imposing presence at 5-foot-10 and is a right-handed shot. She creates space by drawing defenders to her and shields the puck at an elite level. In their most explosive year together at Clarkson (2018-19), Giguère was the creator and Gabel was the finisher. Per Pick224’s data, Giguère had 22 primary assists at evens that year and Gabel had 38 goals at evens. If you’re guessing that they connected on a lot of goals, you are guessing correctly.

On Boston, Giguère and Gabel find themselves on a team of seasoned pros and veterans. As wingers, there’s no shortage of talented two-way centers for them to play with. Of course, the first name that comes to mind is captain Jillian Dempsey but there’s also Becca Gilmore, Taylor Wenczkowski, Taylor House, and Kayla Friesen — there’s really no wrong answer here. Perhaps even more importantly, Giguère and Gabel will have plenty of chances on the rush with elite puck-movers like Kaleigh Fratkin, Kali Flanagan, Aneta Tejralová, and Olivia Zafuto on the blue line.

PHF teams are already learning that you really don’t want to play run-and-gun with the Pride. Pick your poison. The Giguère and Gabel connection, Allie Thunstrom, or McKenna Brand? And those three weapons are just the tip of the iceberg.

The luxury of having a deep, talented group of forwards is that head coach Paul Mara can pursue a lot of different threads to find that perfect blend of chemistry and balance in his lines. The chemistry between Gabel and Giguère is already evident, but that doesn’t mean the Pride would be foolish to separate them. They thrive together but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of clicking with different linemates. With that said, I think we’re all rooting for them to be on the ice for the same power-play unit as much as possible.

Boston’s offseason plan to add weapons like Gabel and Giguère to the mix removed an immense amount of weight from the shoulders of veterans like Dempsey, Brand, and Putigna. It’s not that those players aren’t expected to produce — the difference now is that they don’t need to score for Boston to win. That is the power of depth and, when it comes to forwards, the Pride look like the top of the class in the PHF in a tier they might only share with the Connecticut Whale.