Big things were expected of Jordan Topping this season, and now that the Tri-City Americans forward is healthy and back on the ice, he’s delivering.
Topping missed the first 29 games of the season with a severe high ankle sprain, suffered at the Dallas Stars camp in early September. In the 33 games since his return, the 19-year-old forward from Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, has contributed 21 goals and 17 assists as the Americans make a push to move up the ladder in the U.S. Division as the regular season winds down.
“It was tough and frustrating for him at the beginning of the year,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said, “being hurt, not being able to help the team and get off to the start he wanted. We were patient and waited for him to be healthy. I think he is hitting his stride and he continues to get better. We expected him to be a leader on the team this year, and be a guy who can play in all situations and add offense. He is doing that for us at an important time.”
The Americans (36-23-3-0, 75 points) are back on home ice Friday, hosting the Seattle Thunderbirds (38-17-3-2, 81 points) in their annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
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Topping’s play has been under a spotlight since Michael Rasmussen suffered a lower-body injury Feb. 1 and has not played since. Add in a lower-body injury to forward Vladislav Lukin, who could be out up to two weeks, and Topping’s play becomes that much more important.
Over the past nine games, Topping has 13 points and seven goals, and the Americans have won their past five games.
“With Razzy out, Jordan is a guy we can count on,” Williamson said. “He’s our leading returning scorer (76 points in 72 games) from last season. We had some guys we expected to add offense, but they weren’t proven yet. He was a guy we knew could step in and take another step forward. Since he’s been back, he’s continued to get better. He’s a dangerous guy that other teams have to pay attention to.”
Topping said he is starting to feel 100 percent. That was evident Wednesday when he had three goals and an assist in a 6-4 win over Portland.
“Our team is doing well right now, and everything is feeling right,” Topping said. “Getting a hat trick is a pretty cool feeling. There are nights when everything seems to go your way. It feels good to be back.”
Topping was paired with Rasmussen and Tyler Sandhu until Rasmussen went out. Kyle Olson has stepped up on the line and is filling in quite nicely. He had a goal and an assist in Wednesday’s win.
“There are a lot of guys capable of stepping up when guys go down,” Topping said. “I have been fortunate to play with good players this year. It speaks to the depth of our team. We will be that much better when Michael and Vladislav come back.”
Of Topping’s 21 goals, nine have come on the power play, adding another weapon to the Americans’ arsenal.
“He can shoot the puck, he’s good around the net, he’s got really good hands and he’s a big body that’s willing to stand in front,” Williamson said. “There are lot of different places you can put him on the ice. With the guys we have, it’s a good complement. We have guys to bring the puck up the ice and find ways to get it to the net. He is an added weapon out there.”
GOING PINK FOR A GOOD CAUSE
Friday will be the Americans’ 12th annual Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
A portion of ticket sales, money raised from the jersey auction, silent auction and T-shirt sales go to support the Tri-Cities Cancer Center Foundation.
“Over the years, this has brought in $201,000,” said Foundation director Liz McLaughlin. “That is a huge contribution to cancer patients in our community. There have been so many things we have been able to provide our patients with the support of the Tri-City Americans and their fans. We love being included in this night. You can see the money being put into place in the community. We are just down the street.”
While the Americans are in full support of the cause, the night gives the team a boost as well.
“This building, when the team is playing well and playing an exciting brand of hockey, is extremely exciting,” Williamson said. “It is loud and there is a lot of energy. With these types of games, Military Night, Teddy Bear Toss and Breast Cancer Awareness, a lot of people come out and support these causes, and it gives the guys a little extra energy.”
In addition to playing on pink ice, the Americans will wear Breast Cancer Awareness jerseys that will be up for auction on the concourse. The minimum bid is $250, with a buy-it-now price of $750. The auction will run until the start of the third period.
T-shirts will be on sale for $10 on the concourse, along with a silent auction behind Section J that will have gift baskets, Americans memorabilia and more.
Instead of having one breast cancer survivor drop the puck, survivors will be invited down to the ice. Members of the Warrior Sisterhood, an organization that helps empower local women with cancer or a cancer-related diagnosis, will wear jerseys from past Breast Cancer Awareness games, provided by Americans season ticket holders Tim and Jeanne Morton.
“I love the jersey auction,” McLaughlin said. “I love seeing them year after year. The support from the community drives our center.”