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Tyler Beskorowany eyeing more glory days with Belfast Giants

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Belfast Giants star Tyler Beskorowany. Credit: William Cherry/Presseye

Belfast Giants star Tyler Beskorowany. Credit: William Cherry/Presseye

William Cherry/Presseye

Belfast Giants star Tyler Beskorowany. Credit: William Cherry/Presseye

When he returns to Belfast in September, netminder Tyler Beskorowany will be a much different person to who he was when he was last seen at the SSE Arena in April 2019.

For a start, he's a dad now. Wife Sarah gave birth to the couple's son, Austen, just over a year ago and during the pandemic, the Canadian has had a chance to be a bit more of a stay-at-home dad than he might have been had hockey been a distraction.

"He's starting to crawl around and getting into stuff, so we've had to start keeping a very keen eye on him!" laughs Beskorowany from his home in Sudbury, Ontario. "It was nice for me to be home and help out with the big guy, take a bit of the load off the wife."

Even away from family life, things have been different too, as has tended to be the case during the pandemic for most of us. Besides a brief stint in Austria with Villacher - which, without going into too much detail, Beskorowany admits was probably a doomed move from the start - his year off the ice has been spent entirely at home and forced him to enter the 'real world' and get a job as a car salesman with a family friend.

But what never changed was Beskorowany's desire to win, and that has led him back to Belfast.

"It wasn't an easy decision, especially with having the family and getting life sorted out here while the pandemic was going on, but it's a good time for me to come back and play a little hockey and finish on my own terms and get my schooling done while I'm there," says the 31-year-old.

While most hockey deals are usually completed in months, this particular signing was almost a year in the making. Steve Thornton, the Giants' head of hockey operations, played a savvy long game, keeping in touch with Beskorowany over the course of the pandemic knowing that if the netminder wanted to complete his schooling in Belfast - he has the second half of his school deal at the Ulster University to complete - then he would have to do it this year. When the offer was put forward in black and white, the signature didn't take long in coming.

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It helped that the ex-Edinburgh Capital retained fond memories of his last time in Belfast. Indeed, he openly admits that he kept a keen eye on how his former side were doing while he was playing for Banska Bystrica in Slovakia in the 2018-19 season and that he was still in frequent touch with several of his old team-mates as well. The goaltender may have left Belfast, but Belfast hadn't left him.

On the face of it, his return is a win-win for both sides. Beskorowany gets the chance to come back and, as he put it, finish on his own terms, while the Giants bring back a goaltender that produced one of the best individual seasons in club history when he claimed the Elite League player of the year and Giants' most valuable player awards in the 2018-19 double-winning campaign. As well as that, head coach Adam Keefe has a key cornerstone with which to build his team around from the back forward.

And, pleasingly, for the Belfast fanbase, not only do they have a very popular familiar face back on the roster for their long-awaited return to action, but the netminder says he's feeling better than he ever has coming into a season courtesy of having a season off to rehab any niggles he was feeling, including the injury that ended his brief stay in Austria last year.

"I feel healthy, I feel good. The past year gave me a chance to let the body rest up again," he insists. "I played a lot of hockey the two years prior to that when I was in Slovakia and Belfast, so the body was starting to feel it a bit, and this last year was probably a blessing in disguise to give me a chance to rest up and take care of the family at the same time.

"I feel great. I started training a couple months ago and I knew if I had a chance to come back then I'd want to feel 100% mentally and physically, and I definitely feel that."

Of course, given his previous season in Belfast, there is no shortage of pressure on Beskorowany to replicate both his individual success - which, along with his awards, saw him keep an exceptional .921 save percentage and a 2.25 goals against average in 54 league games - and the team's success as he back-stopped them to a memorable double as they claimed both the Elite League and Challenge Cup titles in the same season.

The year he spent with Banska Bystrica did nothing to suggest that he's a player on the wane either, improving his save percentage to .930 and his GAA to 2.04. Indeed, there's a degree of frustration from his year in the Extraliga that was cut short when the league was cancelled due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm confident that, had the league not stopped, we would have won another title, or been very close to it at least," he insists.

But that only correlates with the desire to win that the former DEL Netminder of the Year exudes throughout. He's not coming back to Belfast just to pick up a pay cheque, he has designs on not just doing the double, but eclipsing it by winning the treble this time around. And when he name-checks the Play-Off title - the only domestic trophy he didn't win in Belfast in his previous season at the club - as being a real ambition to win, rather than just a passing remark, it's a promising sign.

"We have to one-up last season (2018-19). The play-off trophy is one we'd definitely like to win - actually, it'd be great to win all of them again!" he says with steely determination.

"But I thrive under (the pressure). It gives me a lot of confidence going back to a league I had a lot of success in and I think I can replicate that this time around. The confidence is the biggest thing going forward, knowing that success is there and it is capable to be had.

"That being said, it's a completely new season. We had a ton of success the last time I was there and obviously I'd like to replicate that this year and win a few championships again. We had an incredible team while I was there. If Thornts wants to duplicate that success then he has a lot of work on his hands to recruit some solid players, but I believe he's capable of doing that, he's shown that he's been able to do over the last few years. I think he'll be able to bring in the right personnel to be able to do that."

Targets set, body ready, all that's left to do, then, is for Beskorowany to head over to Belfast in September and actually get on the ice again. In the meantime, he and Sarah have some unfinished business in Sudbury - the couple are in the middle of moving house - but, once that's squared away, it'll be all eyes on a return to Belfast, this time with Austen in tow.

"It's going to be good," he says with a smile. "I miss the crowd, I miss the chants and stuff. Having this year off you realise how much you miss the game, the atmosphere, the fans. I'm really looking forward to it."


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