IN THE SPOTLIGHT
The Highland Park Giants hockey player with four hat tricks this winter wanted to talk about anything but the number of goals (22) he had scored in 40 games after a recent home contest at Centennial Ice Arena.
“I’m a pass-first guy,” humble senior center/forward Michael Gallo said, following HP’s 4-2 defeat of visiting Mount Prospect-based Prep V1 on Dec. 12.
“I prefer assists to goals.”
Have stick, will … feed puck to teammates.
As often as possible.
“Michael,” Giants senior center Kyle Powers said, “is a sniper for us, but he does like to pass. Great eye-hand coordination … it’s the kind that’s out of this world.”
It’s the kind that also helped Gallo — a fan of the Chicago Blackhawks’ talented and quick-handed right winger, Patrick Kane — provide 17 assists, tied for second among teammates behind senior forward Ryan Genender’s 18 through Dec. 12; Genender also paces the Giants (24-11-7) in goals with 26.
Gallo was a young hockey/baseball player, around seven years old, when a pair of hockey injuries — fractured right shoulder blade, torn right rotator cuff — reduced his bat and glove to closet-space fillers at home. Gallo had learned all about baseball from his father, Elmwood Park native Neal Gallo, and his Uncle Jack (Neal’s brother, a middle infielder who played minor league ball in the New York Yankees’ organization).
“I couldn’t throw a baseball after the injuries,” Michael Gallo recalled. “I wasn’t too upset because I was getting kind of bored with baseball at the time I was hurt.
“Now, though, I miss the sport.”
He has been a hit for the Giants on the ice, despite having not played a single minute of travel hockey. Gallo is a house league (Falcons Hockey Association) lifer.
“Center, wing, on our power play, on our penalty kill … I can put Michael anywhere, and he never says no,” Giants hockey coach Sean Freeman said of Gallo, who finished with 10 goals and 11 assists in 39 games in his rookie year on varsity last winter. “He’s been consistent for us; that comes from his willingness to work hard on his game with us and on the driveway at his home. And he’s a kid who gives us quiet leadership. You know how he greets me each time I see him? With a genuine, ‘Hi, how are you?’
“Some would say a bed is one of the most important parts of a house,” the coach added. “You need it. You rely on it to be there for you each night. Michael is the bed of our hockey program.”
At this time next year, Gallo hopes to fall asleep nightly on a bed on a Big Ten campus. Three of the colleges he is considering are University of Illinois, University of Wisconsin and Indiana University.
Sister Gabby, a chemical engineering major at Illinois, played hockey for Warren Township High School’s club team when she attended HPHS.
Possible careers for Michael?
Insurance agent (like his father) or financial consultant or sports agent.
For now, the only job he cares about is the one with the salary of $0: HP Giants hockey player.
“What I like, what all of us on this team like, is winning hockey games and the feeling that comes with winning,” said Gallo, who had an assist in the game against Prep V1 last week and sported a tie, a shirt and khaki pants (team dress code) afterward.
One of his favorite high school teachers, Mr. Woldeit, attended the game. Gallo took a math class taught by Woldeit last year.
“Nice man,” Gallo said. “Big help. He never hesitated to take the time to help me when I was struggling in his class.”
As Gallo stood rinkside, patiently answering mostly hockey questions, he grew particularly animated when the query was about his team.
Michael Gallo wanted to talk about others, not about Michael Gallo.
“Be respectful, be kind, around everybody,” Gallo said. “That’s how my mom [Michele] and dad raised me. You do that, and you avoid having enemies.”
Not a bad life goal.
Credit both Michele and Neal Gallo with an assist.
Notable: Six HP Giants hockey players, paced by senior Ryan Genender’s 44 points (26 goals and 18 assists), had totaled at least 30 points through Dec. 12. The other five: senior forward Michael Gallo (22 goals, 17 assists); senior forward Dylan Abt (19, 15); senior forward Gabe Schlussel (18, 13); junior forward George Giese (14, 16); and senior forward Sam Frazer (13, 17). … Freshman Jack Manone and junior Zachary Gordon are sharing goaltending duties for the Giants this winter. Manone was 16-6-6 (5 shutouts) with a save percentage of .909 through Dec. 12; Gordon was 7-5-1 with an .899 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.04. … HP senior defenseman Tyler Wiesman (3 goals, 12 assists through Dec. 12) has been accepted by Cornell University. “Smart kid,” HP Giants coach Sean Freeman said. … Junior defenseman Sebastian Thomas is the Giants’ captain in 2017-18, with Abt and senior defenseman Charlie Levine-Wolf serving as alternate captains. … Genender scored twice, and Schlussel and Tyler Wiesman tallied one goal apiece in HP’s 4-2 defeat of visiting Prep V1 on Dec. 12. Prep V1 scored two goals in a 21-second span to cut HP’s lead to 3-2 in the third period. Levine-Wolf had two assists; Gallo and Frazer each finished with an assist. Manone recorded 30 saves. HP and Prep V1 had skated to a 3-3 tie in the teams’ previous meeting (Nov. 11) in Mount Prospect.