Gabriel continues to bury the puck as Ravens pile up the victories

By: Mike Moore | Royal Oak Review | Published February 6, 2017

ROYAL OAK — It was another night of Royal Oak High hockey and another typical game for Henry Gabriel.

Even as the senior set a career high for goals scored in a single contest Feb. 2, there really wasn’t much surprise to be had.

Six goals in one outing was pretty special, but as coach Craig Ward put it after the 9-1 victory against Clarkston High last week, “You kind of come to expect this from him.”

That’s part special and part ridiculous.

“There are games he’ll score three or four goals, and it’s almost like I won’t notice,” Ward said. “He’s a guy that maybe doesn’t make the right choice at all times, but the right choice comes to him. That’s a gift.”

As is finding the back of the net, which Gabriel has done the past three seasons while with Royal Oak.

As a sophomore, in his first year with varsity, he scored 23 times and finished the year with 41 total points.

He was just getting warmed up.

Last year, he scored 46 goals, added 39 assists and finished with 89 points.

This winter, and after the six-goal performance against Clarkston, he has 37 goals, 30 assists and 67 points in 16 games.

He’s averaging 2.3 goals, 1.9 assists and 4.2 points per game.

According to Michigan High School Hockey Hub, Gabriel’s 37 goals are second in the entire state, his 30 assists are tied for sixth, and his 67 points is more than any other player in Michigan.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” Gabriel said simply. “Truthfully, I’ve worked on my game a lot this year. I’ve been working on the defensive zone more than the offense, because I think that generates more scoring chances.”

Ward called Gabriel the “absolute player.”

“He loves the game of hockey,” the Ravens’ coach said. “He’s the first guy on the ice and the last guy off. … He just has a knack for the puck. He’s not afraid to shoot or pass. As much as he scores, he’s really an unselfish player.”

The assist numbers back up that statement.

Gabriel was quick to credit the guys around him, especially line-mate Brendan Murphy, who has 11 goals and 17 assists.

“We’ve played together for something like six years now,” Gabriel said. “We just kind of click.”

As far as the expectation to produce every night — fair or unfair — Gabriel said it comes with the territory.

“It’s a big weight on my shoulders, I’ll admit that,” he said. “But I try not to think about it too much. I feel like if I think about scoring, I’m not at my best. I just want to play my game.”

The benefits of his contributions aren’t a one-way street either.

Including the Clarkston win, Royal Oak was 12-2-2 on the year and 7-0-0 in the Oakland Activities Association White Division at press time, just ahead of Birmingham Unified (6-1-0).

The Ravens are seeking an outright title this winter after sharing the crown with Troy United last year.

If all goes as planned, Gabriel will have a big hand in claiming the title.

“Knowing where to be without the puck is what makes him so dangerous,” Ward said. “He puts himself in the right situation at the right time. When he has that chance to bury it, he usually does. Most of his goals are within six feet of the goaltender. You can’t coach scoring like that.”

As for what’s next, beyond high school, Gabriel said he’s had a number of offers from a variety of colleges, though he is still considering options to play at the junior level.

“I haven’t made any decisions yet,” he said.

There’s plenty of time for that, plenty of high school games still to be played and plenty of opposing goalies still to be beat.