After a slow start, veteran right wing Sean McAslan hit his stride right around Christmas.
The Ice Dogs, after a slow start, finally began to click around Christmas, too.
Coincidence? No, not at all.
While there is no doubt that his teammates have played big roles, McAslan has been the catalyst behind the Ice Dogs’ evolution from an up-and-down team to a contender.
“He holds dear everything in hockey I believe in, character and work ethic,” Ice Dogs coach Malcolm Cameron said. “He has been everything I thought he would be, but it just took a little longer that I though.”
The problem with the Ice Dogs early in the season was that they weren’t consistent with either attribute. And the results were just as inconsistent, losing four games to open the season, then a seven-game span without a regulation loss, etc.
Meanwhile, McAslan, who spent the past two seasons in the AHL, was having a tough time adjusting to the ECHL and his role. He was benched for the fifth game of the season, didn’t record his first points until the ninth game, and had just two goals and four assists at Christmas.
“I was trying to do too much,” the 6-foot-1, 192-pound McAslan said of his struggles.
As a veteran player who has played in arguably the second-best league in the world the past two seasons, McAslan was trying to be the player he wasn’t. He’s not a gifted goal scorer or playmaker, but rather a hard-working, physical player. When he finally got back to his game, he and the Ice Dogs have taken off.
Since Christmas, a span of 16 games, McAslan has 12 goals and eight assists (over a point per game), and the Ice Dogs went 9-4-2, including an 8-1-2 mark in January. He is on track to have a career offensive year.
“I am happy to have found my place on the team,” said McAslan, whose performance on the ice and leadership in the locker room as the team captain have set the standard for this year’s Ice Dogs.
“He is a more vocal leader now and he makes guys accountable, and he backs it up with how hard he plays every night,” Cameron said. “I can’t think of one bad game, or even one bad shift, he’s had in about two months. Now, he is getting rewarded because he has worked so hard.”