IceCaps’ rookie heating up as season winds down

Robin Short
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There are any number of reasons for the St. John’s IceCaps’ red-hot play of late, from Michael Hutchinson’s emergence to AHL stardom via the ECHL, to the balanced scoring up and down the IceCaps’ lineup, to the strong special teams play and, not the least of which, an ability to win games on the road.

And chipping in with his two cents’ worth to the IceCaps’ cause is rookie Adam Lowry, who quietly is having a very fine rookie season.

Heading into last night’s game against the Portland Pirates, Game 2 of a three-game set with the IceCaps’ Atlantic Division rival, Lowry had 15 goals and 26 points through 52 games. More impressive is the fact 10 of those goals have come in the past 21 games, including a game-winner last Saturday night against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers when he got the jump on a Bridgeport defenceman, skated in on a partial breakaway on goalie Kevin Poulin and scored on the backhand for the overtime winner.

Wednesday night, in the IceCaps’ 5-1 thumping of the Pirates, Lowry found himself centering St. John’s top line between captain Jason Jaffray and Andrew Gordon. Jaffray and Gordon both had a goal and an assist, and Lowry, who doesn’t turn 21 until the end of the month, collected a pair of assists.

“I’m not overly surprised because he was such a good player in Swift Current,” IceCaps coach Keith McCambridge said of Lowry’s production. “He can obviously find the back of the net.

“He’s a big part of our organizational depth.”

Lowry was Winnipeg’s second pick in 2011 NHL Entry Draft, tabbed 67th overall from the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League. The Jets’ first pick in that draft was Mark Scheifele, selected seventh overall.

Now, while Lowry isn’t mentioned in the same breath as Scheifele and fellow Winnipeg rookie Jacob Trouba, there’s no question the big 6-5 centre has a bright future ahead in Winnipeg.

But not all 20-year-olds earn NHL jobs. Most, like Lowry, need seasoning in the minors.

“For him to produce this early in his first year is definitely something we’re pleased with,” McCambridge said. “But it’s going to take time. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight with regards to him making that transition to the National league. It’s a processs.

“There are going to be ups and downs, just as there have been here when there were stints where his game wasn’t where we wanted it. But he’s given himself a chance to string together a chunk of time with the ability to be a big part of our team.”

Lowry, the son of long-time NHLer Dave Lowry, saw his start to the 2013-14 season hampered by whiplash he sustained in training camp and a shoulder injury in St. John’s that sidelined him for eight games. When he did get back in the lineup, it took him 13 games before he scored a goal.

“That 10 days off at Christmas really helped me in that it allowed me to get back in the gym, allowed me to gain confidence,” he said. “I feel stronger and a lot better on the ice. With that, I’m hanging around the net, scoring some garbage goals. Pucks are going off me, and I’m able to get rebounds.”

He’s also gaining the confidence of McCambridge and the coaching staff. Despite his rookie status, Lowry is one of the IceCaps’ primary penalty killers, and also sees time on the power play.

“He’s adjusted himself to the speed of the American league,” the coach said. “It takes first year guys a while to get comfortable, and that’s to be expected. It’s a progression, it’s development.

“How you like your team to progress is to see your young guys after Christmas narrowing that gap with your older players,” McCambridge said. “That’s how the American league, to me, has to work. The veteran players, of which we have a core group, and your second- and third-year players, they set the way to start, they set the tone. And now, after Christmas, your younger players take a bigger bite out of things.

“He’s come in, felt his way as a young player, earned some trust from the coaching staff, earned trust from his teammates and now he’s got those opportunities in an overtime game to go on the ice and have a chance to win the game.”

Organizations: IceCaps, Portland Pirates, NHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers Western Hockey League

Geographic location: Winnipeg, Bridgeport, Swift Current Winnipeg.But

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