Double or Nothing

By Noah Fernandes

The story of Northeastern’s inseparable twins.

Northeastern men’s hockey got a unique twist when they landed Dylan and Ty Jackson. The Jacksons have been side by side every step of their hockey journey and embody the classic perception of twins, playing together on the rink and rooming together off of it. 

Growing up in Oakville, Ontario, the twins started playing young, following in the footsteps of their dad Paul, who played professionally in the Central Hockey League. This mentorship proved to be incredibly helpful. 

“Our dad taught us a lot growing up,” Ty said. “Having the same teacher teaching you to play in the same ways … I feel like we have the same skills, which helps us develop chemistry.”

With hard work and teamwork, they created a close bond. For their father, coaching was a breeze.

“It was easy, really. They worked hard all the time and were always focused. They supported each other on the ice all the time,” Paul said. “They had great chemistry and they always found a way to help each other if one of them wasn’t having a great game.”

This chemistry has been cultivated through the years. After playing in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, they moved away from home to pursue their hockey careers; this landed them in Dubuque, Iowa. As they joined the United States Hockey League, they moved in with the same billet family, their family away from home, while they played. 

From a parental standpoint, this was not the easiest task by any means.

“It was very difficult for us as parents to send our sons 12 hours away to another country at the age of 17,” their mother, Dana, said, “but it was what they wanted and needed to do to continue to grow as hockey players.”

Hitting the road together, the brothers had to rely on each other, but knew they could also build off of each other. 

“Joining a brand new team, you get a lot more comfortable when you have someone that you know,” Dylan said.

Together, they took on a new role. Growing up on the road with the Dubuque Fighting Saints, the Jackson twins established a distinctive identity. Playing as line-mates and using their long-held chemistry, they built a name for themselves. 

“When people think of the Jackson twins, they think of small players that surprise people and are able to play well despite their size,” Dylan said. 

Dylan is a 5’10”, right-handed right winger. Ty takes faceoffs as a 5’8” center and is left-handed. Despite those differences, their playing style is almost identical. The best way to put it, as Dylan said, was “skilled, offensive players.” Dylan sees himself as a winger who likes to shoot and put pucks on net.

Aside from taking the faceoffs, Ty has more responsibility in the defensive zone and relies on edgework and quickness as a centerman: “As a smaller guy, I need to battle hard and work hard to make up for my size.” 

Their desire to push each other has always remained with them. Whether it’s in the weight room, on the rink, or outside of hockey, they have been side by side. At home, they got along just as well as they do on the ice. 

“Ty and Dylan do compete with each other, but in a positive way,” Dana said. “They push each other to do better whether it is for hockey or for school. They do have their fights, too, but it’s usually over PS4.” 

She recounts when, at a young age, Dylan pushed Ty to stick with hockey.

“Ty actually wanted to quit hockey when he was six years old,” Dana recalled. “He didn’t like getting up for 6am practices on Saturdays. Dylan got really upset because he didn’t want to quit, but he didn’t want to play without Ty, so Ty finally agreed to keep going for Dylan.”

This close bond also heavily factored into their college decision.

“We were definitely going to play together, 100 percent. The reason we chose Northeastern is because we love the coaching staff, they know about the game of hockey, and they have a ton of value and can teach us a ton,” Ty said. 

In November of 2016, the twins verbally committed to Northeastern. With their sights set, they have specific and clear goals for their time here. 

“We want to be the best players we can be and help the team win,” Dylan said.

Ty added, “We just want to be confident and play to our strengths and help the team however we can. Being on a winning team helps us younger players get valuable experience.”

However, for Hannah and Elyse Szych, freshmen twins on the women’s rowing team from Lebanon, New Jersey, the path was not as clear cut. 

Elyse recalled that “growing up we didn’t always want to row. Because we were tall, we played basketball and we were known as the Twin Towers,” while Hannah also swam for 12 years. Rowing didn’t enter the equation until later.

“We had a friend who told us we had the body type of a rower,” Hannah said. “But it was far away from us [two-hour commute], so we had to be sure that we really liked it.”

Convinced, they took the opportunity and started their rowing careers. Rowing alongside each other naturally led to competitiveness. This competition was a common aspect of their relationship. 

“We had the same numbers on the ergometer and were right next to each other. It felt like we were always head-to-head,” Hannah said.

On the boat, they had to find a way to differentiate themselves. They made it easier for coaches to tell them apart by wearing different earrings and hairstyles. Because they were similar in so many ways and always together, the two actually thought they would end up electing to go to different schools in order to “do our own thing,” as Hannah put it. Fate ultimately kept them together, however. 

“We really matched the energy on the team,” Elyse said, “so it was easy to see ourselves here, especially with the academics.”

They have kept their goal clear and simple.

“It has been two years since we have raced, so our goal is to just be able to race,” Hannah said.

As the Jackson and Szych twins look to continue competing at the highest level of college athletics, they use their strong bonds to continually push each other while contributing to their teams.

“We are competitive players,” Dylan said. “And we use our close relationship to help us compete against each other to become the best players we can be.”