Regardless of when his WHL season ends, Justin Feser will go out in a blaze of glory.
The Red Deer product and Tri-City Americans captain and forward, who will celebrate his 21st birthday in July, enjoyed a memorable final WHL regular season, setting a league record for the most consecutive games played and breaking the century plateau and placing fourth in league scoring with 106 points, including 44 goals.
The accolades kept coming Thursday when Feser was selected to the Western Conference first all-star team, along with netminder Mac Carruth of the Portland Winterhawks, defencemen Seth Jones of Portland and Brenden Kichton of the Spokane Chiefs and forwards Colin Smith of the Kamloops Blazers and league co-scoring leader Nicholas Petan of the Winterhawks.
The Winterhawks continued their all-star dominance with four players named to the second team, including forward Brendan Leipsic, who along with Petan racked up 120 points to finish atop the league scoring derby.
Forward Ty Rattie and rearguards Tyler Wotherspoon and Troy Rutkowski were the other ‘Hawks granted all-star status, while goalie Jordon Cooke and forward Myles Bell, both of the Kelowna Rockets, rounded out the second team.
Mitch Topping, another Red Deer minor hockey graduate and a teammate of Feser, is the Western Conference nominee for the WHL humanitarian award (see below).
Jones, meanwhile, is the Western Conference rookie of the year, while Carruth is the top goalie and Kichton has been named top defenceman. Other Western winners include Rourke Chartier (scholastic), Ryan Huska (coach of the year), Bruce Hamilton (executive of the year) and Zach Franko (sportsmanlike) all from Kelowna.
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Feser and Topping are onside with muscular dystrophy.
The Tri-City players have raised money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in the Tri-Cities area all season, donating $10 for each home win and the team matching the donation.
In addition, donation buckets have been present at each Tri-City home game for fans to support the cause.
As the Americans entered their final regular-season home game last week, the Making Awareness a Top Priority to Fes Out Muscular Dystrophy campaign had raised $6,244, surprising even the two biggest supporters.
“Our original goal was $2,500,” Topping told Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald, noting the total did not include his, Feser’s or the team’s contributions. “The response from the fans has been unbelievable. Me and Justin, on behalf of the MDA, want to thank the fans.”
Feser, a forward, and Topping, a defenceman, have spent time with children with MD this season, and have been inspired by their courage.
“The disease affects each kid in their way,” Topping said. “We work with the kids and see the smiles on their faces. They deal with the disease every day, and they still laugh and smile. This (walking boot on his foot) is the biggest inconvenience in my life right now. They would trade everything for just that.”
Feser is closing out a five-year stay with the Americans while Topping is in his second season with the club after being acquired in a trade.
Despite being a relative newcomer to the area, Topping has been involved in several charitable projects, such as Habitat for Humanity and visits to schools and hospitals.
“My mom (Kathy) suggested I do something since I don’t go to school,” Topping said. “I have a lot of spare time. I hope to continue this next year. It has been a blessing in my life.”