The Thunder’s Ian Lowe has worn the captain’s “C” on his sweater for nearly three years, giving him responsibilities no other players carry.
Lowe has answered tough questions following losses and given unofficial state of the team responses when the team has struggled. Following Sunday’s season-ending 4-2 loss to Allen at Intrust Bank Arena, Lowe’s emotions kept him from mustering another answer.
Lowe, the Thunder’s longest-tenured player and its most experienced at age 31, appeared to wipe away tears as he skated off the ice. He emerged from the dressing room 15 minutes later and stared out at the ice from the tunnel.
Overcome by the moment, Lowe strained to keep from breaking down before saying, “Call me tomorrow.”
Thunder coach Malcolm Cameron didn’t speculate on Lowe’s future plans. Lowe has played for the Thunder since 2012, helping the team to the Central Hockey League finals that season.
Lowe and the Thunder didn’t reach those heights again, failing to reach the playoffs in the final CHL season and the first three it played in the ECHL.
Lowe has helped guide a young team under first-year coach Malcolm Cameron which ended the season at 21-44-6-1 amid numerous injuries and promotions to Triple-A Binghamton in the Ottawa Senators system.
Lowe’s seventh pro season ended in a way that reflected the Thunder’s entire year. Young players supplied plenty of effort but were ultimately overmatched by Allen, which has won three straight league champions and has the ECHL’s second-best record.
Allen scored two goals in the third period to break a 2-2 tie after Wichita played a highlight-worthy 20 minutes in the second.
“That’s their championship team there,” Cameron said of Allen. “For the team that we had – and we played last night, too – to be able to go toe-to-toe with them really until the back-breaker there with three and a half minutes to go.”
The Thunder finished the season with four defensemen and gave defensive shifts to forwards Gerrad Grant and Ryan Tesink. Allen took advantage, scoring two goals in the first period.
Wichita rebounded for a strong second period, energizing the crowd of 8,499 for some final memorable moments. Blake Thatchell scored from a difficult angle near the corner, over the opposite-side shoulder of Allen goaltender Jamie Murray to tie it 2-2 late in the period.
“I joked with him on the bench that he should have scored on the first shot,” Cameron said. “It was a heck of a save that Murray made on him, but he stuck with the rebound. When you throw pucks in the net, good things happen.”
Part of Cameron’s focus for the final weeks of the season has been on beginning to build next season’s roster. He is owed several players to be named in earlier trades and has recruited young players during the season to see the impression they made.
Lowe’s status for next season is unclear, but Cameron believes a longer offseason – he was hired in June last year – will help him build a strong team.
“We’ll have a much better foundation than we started with,” Cameron said. “Really there’s only one guy here, Ian Lowe, from last year’s team. I would anticipate between what I acquired and what I bring back, that it will be definitely more than one.”
First period—1. Allen, Barnes (MacLeod, Brittain), 3:31; 2. Allen, Brittain (Brodzinski, Steffes), 9:41.
Second period—3. Wichita, O’Brien (DeBlouw), 11:55; 4. Wichita, Tatchell (DeBlouw, LeBlanc), 17:34. Penalties—Wichita, Friedmann (high-sticking), 6:15; Allen, Moore (hooking) 8:02.
Third period—5. Allen, Asuchak (Hanson, Costello), 1:55; 6. Allen, Steffes (Brodzinski, Moore), 17:36. Penalties—Allen, Costello (tripping), 8:30.
Power play—Allen 0-1, Wichita 0-2. Shots—Allen 11-10-21—42, Wichita 14-18-8—40. Saves—Allen, Gill 14-14, Murray 24-26; Wichita, Owsley 38-42.