Flinders excels in role of leader
With 10 goals and eight assists through 20 games, Ian Flinders is one of the Dublin Coffman High School hockey team's leading scorers.
However, coach Eric Park said the senior forward's leadership and checking skills are just as important to the team's success.
"Ian's a very good player who has the ability to score goals that a lot of other player's can't score, but what stands out the most about him are his grit and character," Park said. "He brings an element of leadership and respect where the other guys look up to him and want to play hard for him.
"Ian's also one of the most physical high school players I've ever seen and he brings an edge to his game that makes his teammates tougher and his opponents a little more hesitant. When Ian's on the ice, his opponents always have to keep their head up because they know that he will lay them out if he gets the chance."
Flinders, who serves as an assistant captain, said he tries to pattern his playing style after Washington Capitals left winger Alex Ovechkin, who is one of the highest-scoring and most physical forwards in the NHL.
"I don't have the same kind of talent that Alex Ovechkin has, obviously, but I try to model my game after his because he's not just a goal-scorer," Flinders said. "He's all over the ice, hitting people and setting his teammates up for goals, too."
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Flinders often checks opponents so hard that he is sent to the penalty box for roughing. A starting linebacker for the football team the past two seasons, he had a career-high 26 penalty minutes through 20 games.
"Ian has been penalized for a lot of clean hits this year because of how hard he checks and how much sound his hits make," Park said. "Ian isn't trying to hurt people when he checks them, but he's got a real strong set of legs and a strong core and he hits like a linebacker. As coaches, we tell him not to change his style because he's not doing anything wrong. He's just more physical than most high school players."
Flinders is glad to be back on the ice after having to sit out last season recovering from shoulder surgery.
After initially being separated during a football game his freshman season, his right shoulder became separated 10 more times during football and hockey games over the course of the next two years.
An MRI revealed that Flinders required surgery to repair a torn labrum and rotator cuff weeks before the start of his junior football season. He opted to postpone the surgery until after the football season.
"I didn't take care of myself and my shoulder needed surgery because of all the wear and tear I put on it over the years," he said. "I was in a lot of pain during my junior football season and there was one game against Hilliard Davidson where my shoulder separated three times in the same game and I just put it back in place and kept playing."
Flinders added 25 pounds of muscle to his frame during his eight months of rehabilitation and he was medically cleared to resume playing football in July.
"It was nerve-racking leading up to that first hit, wondering how my shoulder would hold up," Flinders said. "But once I got that first hit in and my shoulder held up, I felt great. Now that I'm no longer in pain, I'm definitely more physical than I was before having surgery."
Flinders was a defenseman during five seasons of AAA travel hockey but switched to forward for Coffman as a freshman and scored nine goals and had 20 assists that season playing on the Shamrocks' top forward line along with 2011 graduate Sam O'Brien and 2012 graduate Kevin Putnam.
As a freshman, Flinders scored the winning goal in a 2-1 double-overtime victory over Centerville in the district final, giving the Shamrocks their only district championship.
As a sophomore alongside O'Brien and Putnam, he had 35 goals and 33 assists, numbers he realizes he isn't likely to match this season.
"When I played AAA, my coaches moved me back to defense because sometimes I was so excited to hit someone that I forgot about the puck," Flinders said. "My freshman year, I was more of a grinder who went into the corners and tried to get Sam and Kevin the puck to let them do their thing. But I got a lot better my sophomore year and had a breakout season.
"As a senior, I'm trying to have more of a leadership role by setting the tone in practice and leading by example. I use my size to protect the puck and let my teammates get open, and I use my power to bang on defensemen and get the puck from other players. I'm more focused on helping our team win than I am on my statistics."
Flinders said he draws inspiration to perform to the best of his abilities in everything he does by his grandfather, Terry Flinders, who passed away from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis -- better known as Lou Gehrig's disease -- five years ago.
"My grandpa used to come to all of my games and he's someone I really looked up to," he said. "In the final months of his life, he wanted to make one last impact on my life and he emphasized the importance of working hard at school and everything else I do. Whenever I think of him, it motivates me to work hard to become a success because I want to make my family proud of me."