Sport

Jackson Whistle: ‘Belfast Giants can end inconsistent season on a high’

Giants goalie feels competition for his position only helps the team

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Jackson Whistle Jackson Whistle of the Belfast Giants

By Peter Lockhart

After a rollercoaster season so far, the Belfast Giants still have a chance of silverware if they can get their timing right.

Having won a historic treble last season, their hopes of retaining all three trophies ended in December when they crashed out of the Challenge Cup in December and it would take a minor miracle to catch up with runaway Elite League leaders Sheffield Steelers.

Adam Keefe’s men are targeting the end of season Play-Offs and will be hoping they can time their momentum to coincide with the four games and end the season on a high with a trophy.

The Giants currently sit in third place in the league standings and, with just 16 games remaining, they would need the Steelers to have a major slip up while also winning their remaining fixtures including four head-to-head battles with Sheffield in order to retain their crown.

Belfast Giants’ goalie Jackson Whistle has spoken of his optimism in the camp as they approach the business end of the season.

“It has been up and down at times this season, but we’re fighting back,” Whistle explains.

“If I had to sum up this season with one word it would be ‘inconsistent’. We got off to a great start with a winning streak of something like thirteen games and were on a high.

“Then we had a lot of injuries including myself and a lot of other guys. It snowballed from there and we had some slip ups.

“Obviously it was disappointing we exited the Challenge Cup and in the league Sheffield are so far ahead right now.

“So, we’re just focusing on one game at a time and making sure we are at the best we can be come Play-Off time.”

Great Britain international Whistle has increasingly featured between the pipes in the past few weeks, impressing when he has rotated with Tyler Beskorowany.

The Canadian notes that modern ice hockey requires depth in every position and goalie is no different.

“There are so many games in a season that everyone needs a rest to stay fresh. With the league, cup, Challenge Cup, Champions league and internationals, there could be upwards of 80 or 90 games a season,” Whistle said.

“So, you really do need two goalies because you would end up getting pretty gassed out. I was out injured and, now I’ve come back in, we have split time and rotated and it has worked really well.

“There is a healthy competition between myself, Besko and Andrew Dickson. It makes us all better when it comes to game time.

“The biggest thing from the mental side for a goalie is just not getting too high or too low. If your team isn’t playing too well it’s your job as the goalie to calm everything down and keep everything on an even keel. You’re the backbone of the team and the last line of defence.”

As for the remaining games this season, Whistle points to the high quality of the competition of the league which will make every game a battle.

Indeed, living up to the historic success of last season was always going to be tricky but Whistle is confident his side have what it takes to perform when it matters.

“There’s not a whole lot of a gap between second place to us - I think eight or nine points - and from us all the way down to eighth place there’s only ten points which shows the competitiveness of the league this year,” he said.

“The league is tight and we know we need to do a good job and build momentum to make sure we’re in a good spot come playoff time.”

The Giant’s next challenge comes against the Fife Flyers on Saturday at the SSE Arena on Saturday before traveling to Nottingham to face the Panthers on Sunday.

“Fife Flyers are a team we’ve watched some video of and know it will be a hard game. We will try to take it one game at a time, get the job done on Saturday before going on to face Nottingham who have won four out of their last five games on Sunday.”