It starts with the starting goaltender. As it generally does with a junior A level hockey team. And as the Wisconsin Lumberjacks look to add on and build from this past season into the next one they have the makings of being set in net with holdover Kyler Lowden as the no. 1 goalie.
After a brief introduction to the Superior International Jr. Hockey League with the scandal-ridden Fort Frances Lakers during the severely-shortened 2020-2021 season, Lowden returned to the SIJHL in 2021-2022 with Wisconsin. It became a good fit for both Lowden and the Lumberjacks.
Building a Wisconsin team from scratch last fall after having gone dormant during the 2020-2021 campaign because of the pandemic, Lumberjacks general manager and coach Doug Lein signed Lowden as a free agent prior to the start of the season.
And after a sluggish start for both the team and the goalie, the Lumberjacks and Lowden got untracked as the 2021-2022 season progressed. Wisconsin rode a five game winning streak late in the season to finish fifth in the seven team SIJHL with a record of 16-25-2. And the 6-foot-1, 180 pound Lowden was a clear difference maker for Lein and the Lumberjacks.
Eventually taking over as the clear-cut no. 1 goalie for Wisconsin, Lowden finished the regular season with a record of 12-14-1 to go with an .897 save percentage and 4.42 goals against average while facing a barrage of shots. In comparison, when Lowden was not in the net, Wisconsin struggled with a record of 4-11-1, a save percentage of .858 and a goals against average of 6.02.
Now, looking ahead to the 2022-2023 season, Lein excitedly confirmed to Hockey News North that Lowden has committed to return to the Lumberjacks. And the soon to be 20-year Lowden, who hails from Grand Rapids, Michigan, is very much looking forward to heading back to Spooner, Wisconsin for his final season of junior hockey with the Lumberjacks.
“Coach Lein and the Lumberjacks provided me with a great opportunity to develop and grow as a goaltender this past season,” Lowden relayed to Hockey News North. “The organization treats the players well and Spooner is an amazing, small, very supportive community. We have a special group of fans who have our backs and support us very well. I love it there. I couldn’t have enjoyed my first season with the Lumberjacks any more than I did.
“I come from a bigger city in Grand Rapids (with a population of about 200,000) and I wasn’t sure what it would be like in a smaller town like Spooner (which has a population of less than 3,000) but it was an amazing hockey experience in an amazing little town,” gushed Lowden.
Lowden also spoke highly of playing for Lein and the family-owned Lumberjacks.
“The Lein family treats all the players like they are part of their family. Doug and his wife Sophia, Doug’s dad Doug Sr. — who we like to call grampa — and his wife Cindy are all amazing people. The Lumberjacks are more than just junior hockey … it is about relationships,” Lowden noted.
“I feel I am in the right place to continue to develop as a goaltender. We improved immensely throughout the season and I look forward to going to battle with my teammates next season. We should have about half our players back from last season and hopefully we can move forward in the season ahead,” Lowden continued.
Besides wanting to help the Lumberjacks climb the ladder of the SIJHL standings come the 2022-2023 season, Lowden has expectations and aspirations for himself.
“I need to continue to challenge myself to be better every day and give my team an opportunity to win every night. I would like to continue my hockey career at the collegiate level. Before that, I know I need to continue to get better every day. I am prepared to put the work in to do that,” summed up the personable youngster.