by Chris Ballard || AHL On The Beat Archive
Like most rookies, St. John’s IceCaps forward Adam Lowry had to go from dominating the junior ranks to earning his stripes as a pro.
And with close to a full season of professional hockey under his belt, Lowry’s development appears to be right on track.
One year removed from an 88-point season as the captain of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League, the Calgary, Alta., native and son of former NHLer Dave Lowry was brimming with confidence heading into his first full professional season, and rightfully so.
He earned the WHL’s top offensive honors and was named an Eastern Conference First Team All-Star and WHL Player of the Year.
But adjusting to the bigger, faster professional game is difficult for all players and for Lowry it is no exception.
Coming out of junior as a lanky 6-foot-5 power forward, Lowry admits that he was used to tossing around smaller players and had to fight a little harder for space as he entered training camp.
“In junior, you’re playing against one team’s top line and then the depth kind of drops off,” he said.
“(In the American Hockey League), every team has six good defensemen and four good lines. You’re playing against men. They’re all strong. All of them can skate. You have to be that much stronger on your stick. You really have to work harder to win your battles.”
As if playing professional hockey against seasoned veterans of the game wasn’t hard enough, Lowry found himself injured during training camp ahead of the 2013-14 AHL season.
He recovered, however, and cracked the IceCaps’ opening-night lineup, potting his first professional goal that night against the Providence Bruins. Things were looking up for Lowry as he chipped in with three points in his first four games, only to suffer another setback, a second injury that would sideline him for almost a month.
Lowry missed eight games and struggled to find his game. After the injury, he scored just two points in his next 17 contests, a far cry from the 45 goals he scored for the Broncos one year earlier.
What happened? As his teammates started to grow together and find ways to win as a team, Lowry was forced into the role of a spectator, wrecking any momentum he had built from his strong start to the season.
“Missing those eight games earlier in the season put me behind the 8-ball,” Lowry admits.
“You miss those eight games early, it’s tough. Guys are just getting into top form. It’s tough to skate and maintain your conditioning to keep it at a level where it would be when you’re playing games on a regular basis. I just felt my legs weren’t necessarily there. I wasn’t making proper decisions. I wasn’t confident.”
Then came the biggest break in Lowry’s rookie season: the Christmas break. The 10 days off and away from the game helped him refocus and make up the ground he lost from his earlier injuries.
Since the holidays, Lowry has regained his form and has emerged as one of the IceCaps’ top two-way forwards. After his slow start, he has become a key member of the IceCaps’ attack and has totaled 16 goals and 13 assists in 58 games on the year, including a stretch in January and February where he notched a goal in five straight contests.
Lowry admits to having found the confidence he had in Swift Current and knows all too well that confidence is a key factor in the development of his game and his career as a professional.
“I think any time you can go out there and contribute to the game in a positive manner, that reinforces your belief in your own ability,” he said.
“Confidence is a weird thing. When you have it, you feel like you can do anything. When you don’t have it, the net seems tiny and everything doesn’t go your way. It’s a bit of a double-edged sword, so it’s nice to have it right now.”
His confidence has translated into versatility in the eyes of his head coach, Keith McCambridge, who has played the young forward in almost every possible scenario, from special teams to taking a late must-win faceoff.
“It’s taken some time but his development curve has been right on target,” McCambridge said of Lowry. “At the beginning of the year for Adam, getting a feel for the league and adjusting himself to the speed of the pro game (has been a challenge) but the belief in his decision making and his ability as a strong young man to push back and play big has really gotten to a good area right now. Since Christmas, he has come back and learned a lot about the American Hockey League and has come leaps and bounds and has really found his game.”
Lowry has been a key element of the IceCaps’ recent ascent up the Eastern Conference leaderboard, including a recent stretch of victories in 13 of 14 games.
While everything is going well for Lowry on the ice, he still has some work to do in settling into life as an adult living on his own.
“I got used to having other people cook and clean for me,” Lowry chuckled. “I’m living with (fellow rookies) J.C. Lipon and Brenden Kichton right now and we’re figuring it out together. We had a bit of a mice scare earlier in the season. We caught 29 mice in our house. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s like we’re growing up together throughout the year. It’s been a good experience so far.”