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Slaters' effort, impact impress

Guest Digityman

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Ian Slater only knows one speed. He practices the way he plays - at 100 percent.

Every drill in practice, he is flying all over the place. If he loses his footing, he doesn't give up on the drill but races back to the puck and continues as if he didn't. He's never found lagging behind anyone, even as the Phantoms skate to exhaustion at the end of a long session.

"He's got an attitude that's nice to have as a pro hockey player and he does it every day," head coach Terry Murray said. "He doesn't back off because it's a practice day. That's how you do get better and that's how he's worked his way up the ladder here.

"I want other players to see that. That's important. You're supposed to work hard, that's what we do - we work hard. We want that to be contagious and we want to have a role model setting an example for other players to just jump on the coat tails and follow."

Slater has been on the ice for three games and had an immediate effect. He was part of the energy line, along with Zac Rinaldo and Tyler Brown, that started on Jan. 5 against Connecticut and set the tone which the team carried to an overtime win.

Afterwards, Slater commented that he just wanted to provide a spark. He said he's been the energy guy ever since Midget hockey, he knows his role and that's what he's going to do.

Slater started each of the games this past weekend also, though the line around him changed a bit. Friday he centered Brown and Harper and then Saturday it was Mike Testwuide on the right wing instead of Harper - which figures to be the somewhat-permanent energy line.

"He's a little bit of a bulldog," Murray said. "He gets right in there in the middle of things and pushes back pretty hard and that's what you want as players. I like what I've seen, he's got a willingness, he's got a competitiveness."

Slater showed that Saturday night, with his first AHL fight - an effort to spark something out of his teammates. He took the opening faceoff and immediately dropped the gloves with Bobby Farnham. (See the fight below - note: the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton broadcaster seems to be confusing #12 Slater with #11 Shane Harper)

It didn't have an immediate effect on the game on the ice as the Penguins continued to shut down the Phantoms, blocking shots and stifling most of their offense, but that doesn't mean it wasn't noticed and appreciated by his teammates.

When Harry Zolnierczyk and Testwuide walked by reporters asking Slater about the fight on Monday, they started hooting and hollering their support in the background.

Slater just looks at the fight as part of his role, part of bringing energy to the bench.

"It's part of the game, if you've got that competitive edge and you've got that go-getter attitude, it's going to be there," he said. "You gotta sometimes step up, either stepping up for a teammate or defending yourself. You gotta be there and answer the bell. As long as you're bringing some energy to the bench and do it the right way."

Slater has also shown he's not afraid to battle guys bigger than he is. In practice, Slater, who is listed at a generous six-feet and 198 pounds, has taken on Oliver Lauridsen (6-foot-6, 220 pounds) in battles for the puck. He ended up on the ice at least once, but also found his way to the puck a couple of times.

"That's the way he's played the game he's whole career, so he's got the proper athletic base, he's got the proper attitude and he's just got good balance and good strength in those type situations," Murray said.

"That's the game I want to continue to push, give him more ice time in ciritical situations against top players, get on the penalty kill - he does well there - he's strong on faceoffs. There's a lot of nice things that we're talking about here and that's after three, four games."

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