Dylan and Ty Jackson, the dynamic twins that have emerged as dangerous offensive weapons leading the Dubuque Fighting Saints in points scored, have become vital to Dubuque’s success in a season that’s seen the Dubuque Fighting Saints win 25 games so far.
The average sports fan has heard it before, “this team is a family.” Whether it be from a coach, player or even something that we’ve said while playing sports, it has almost become a cliché in the world of team sports to equate a team to a family. With that notion in mind, it’s not every day that you see actual siblings as teammates. It’s even rarer still to see twins who both happen to be elite offensive threats excelling with an almost completely identical playing style. However, that is exactly what Dylan and Ty Jackson are for the Fighting Saints. Fans watching the Jackson twins zip passes through defenses and put the puck into the back of the net may draw comparisons to the Sedin twins, formerly of the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. The more accurate comparison of the Jackson twin's style of play on the ice would be to Ty and Dylan's father Paul Jackson, a former professional hockey player whose career spanned the entirety of the 1990s. Both Ty and Dylan credit their father for introducing them to the sport of hockey, while also helping to nurture their talents while he served as their coach. “He introduced us to the sport," Ty and Dylan said of their father who had the two boys learning to ice skate by age three and playing in their first youth league at age four. Paul Jackson then went on to coach the youth teams that Dylan and Ty played for growing up and helped the Jackson twins improve their game in the off-season. “Since we were younger, he’s taught us everything we know," said Dylan. Ty added, "not only has he developed us on the ice, but sometimes we even go over video.” Paul still works with his sons and constructively criticizes them but, Ty says his father “is starting to sit back more and let us do our thing more than he did when we were younger.”
Dylan and Ty have also found that learning the game of hockey together, playing on the same team, and on the same lines was and is critical to their development. The twins both said they had a competitive relationship growing up, but this competition between them only aided their development as young hockey players. “We're competitive but that helps the two of us because when we're lifting weights, we're pushing each other; when we're on the ice, we're pushing each other," said Dylan. “We’re both trying to be better than the other, but when I play well it helps Dylan play better. We're competitive but we benefit each other by pushing each other,” said Ty. The personal competition between the two of them has also helped both Dylan and Ty become equally adept at passing and shooting. “Sometimes we’ll switch for a full year. For example, one-year Dylan will be the shooter and he’ll score more of the goals and then we’ll switch it up,” said Ty of the roles he and his brother Dylan play on the ice. But as much as the two brothers try to differentiate the roles they play on the ice, they do recognize the glaring similarities in their playing styles. “Once we get into the offensive zones and there are no real positions down there, we play a very similar style,” said Dylan.
Both Ty and Dylan don’t just credit their own interpersonal competition or the help they’ve received from their father Paul for the excellent season they’re having. Ty and Dylan recognize that the hard work they put in the weight room during the offseason to get bigger, stronger and faster has been an integral part of their improvement from last season to this season. Dylan said of the twin’s offseason, “In the summer we worked out a lot and we both added on about ten pounds and that’s big. It helps us with the puck battles in the corner and we both have a harder shot. Just overall the [added] strength has helped us improve our game.” Ty echoed Dylan’s feelings saying: “Our whole game has improved because of that strength. That strength has helped increase the power on our shots. Last year I felt like the two of us needed to get in tight to score, but with the added strength we’ve been able to score from further out. Also, our speed and ability to hold onto the puck and not get knocked off the puck as often because we’re stronger has helped out a ton,” said Ty. The improvements that the Jackson twins have made from last season to this season haven’t only been physical. The Jackson twins, having been a part of the Dubuque Fighting Saints last year, had the privilege of watching Matias Maccelli lead the offense on his way to totaling 72 points. They did not see Matias Maccelli’s offensive performance last year as something that was holding them back but as an opportunity to learn from a great player. “He was really good offensively, so we’ve tried to implement some of the things he did into our game," said Dylan. "We looked up to him last year and I think that’s one of the best things about playing with great players is just trying to learn from them and improve your game,” said Ty. The Jackson twins know that even though they had the opportunity to learn from a great player last season, they can’t completely abandon what they’ve always done on the ice. "We still focus on playing our own game because we're different players than Maccelli,” said Ty.
The Jackson twins are seeing the fruits of their labor in the offseason, and last season, pay off. That’s not to say that the Jackson twin's impressive offensive season isn’t being helped by great play from their teammates on the Fighting Saints. Both Ty and Dylan Jackson recognize this fact because when they were asked to identify which of their teammates was the biggest help to them, Dylan and Ty went on to collectively name every player on the roster. The twins said of their teammates, “it’s so hard to pinpoint a couple of guys because it’s just been a big team effort so far this year.” Statements that show the humility of the Dubuque Fighting Saints offensive stars of this season also demonstrate how well the Fighting Saints have played as a complete team all season. The Jackson twins may amongst the league leaders in points, but they know that their success and a possible Clark Cup this season won’t be possible without the excellent teammates they have.