After two years in a supporting role in Kelowna, Jackson Whistle is ready for prime time.
Moving into the No. 1 slot between the pipes for the Rockets in 2014-15 is a most welcome scenario the 19-year-old goaltender.
“This will be my fourth year and I’m pretty excited to be here, to get the opportunity to be the No. 1 guy and just kind of roll with it,” said Whistle. “I feel like I’ve put a lot of work into it, so it’s nice be in this position now…I’m looking forward to it.”
Following a trade to the Rockets by the Vancouver Giants in the fall of 2012, it didn’t take Whistle long to settle in as a reliable WHL back up to Jordon Cooke.
Over his first two seasons in Kelowna, Whistle posted numbers more befitting a veteran stopper—a robust 33-6-1-0 record and a 2.32 goals against average.
“The last two years working with (goalie coach) Kim Dillabaugh I gained a lot of confidence with the Rockets, and with the rest of the coaching staff,” said Whistle, who moved to Kelowna seven years ago. “For a goaltender, confidence is huge, so I feel like I have that on my side heading into the season.”
In turn, Whistle has also gained the confidence of Rockets’ management and coaches—not just with his play over the last two seasons and in training camp but his commitment to being ready for his new role.
“Jackson really worked hard on the fitness side of his game this summer, getting stronger and being ready to deal with the physical demands that goaltenders have in our league,” said Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton. “He’s done a real good job and now it’s his turn to show us that he’s capable of handling the load. I’m hoping he can get 60 games in this year and carry the bulk of the work for us.”
Following in the footsteps of the Canadian Hockey League’s goaltender of the year can be an intimidating prospect for an aspiring major junior netminder. Not so for Whistle, who plans use the experience of watching Cooke the last two years to his full advantage as Kelowna’s new No. 1 man.
“Just the way Jordon works, he played a lot of games and worked so hard in practise,” said Whistle. “It was huge watching him do that and it pushed both of us, kept me trying to work as hard as he did. That’s what I’ll try and carry into this year.
“The biggest thing as a No. 1 guy is just keeping it at an even keel, not getting too high or low when things are going good or bad,” Whistle continued. “Just keep it flat line across the board…so I feel pretty good going in.”
Led by Madison Bowey, Mitch Wheaton and Cole Martin, Whistle will have arguably one of the WHL’s best defensive corps in front of him this season.
And while he assures it won’t lead him to relax too much in the crease, Whistle admits it provides him with a certain sense of security.
“Obviously it’s very nice to know that your D-men know what they’re doing out there,” Whistle. “We have a very good D-corps that does a good job in front of their goalies.”
Whistle will attend the Vancouver Canucks’ rookie camp next week in Penticton, before returning to the Rockets prior to the start of the regular season on Saturday, Sept. 20.
Whistle will likely be backed up this season by either rookie Jake Morrissey, 17, from Calgary, or Christopher Tai, 18, a Delta native who has WHL experience with Lethbridge, Brandon and Medicine Hat.
Both goaltenders will remain with the team heading into the Rockets’ exhibition games this weekend in Delta. Kelowna will play the Giants on Saturday and Victoria on Sunday.