The Tri-City Americans will complete the second half of their swing through the Central Division this week, with the first stop tonight being Justin Feser's hometown of Red Deer, Alberta.
Feser, in his second year with the Americans, will be playing at Red Deer's Enmax Centrium for the first time in his WHL career.
"I've been waiting a year and a half to do this," said Feser, who has career highs of 23 goals and 22 assists. "It's exciting to go to my hometown to play and play in front of people that haven't gotten to see me play since I came here (Tri-City). I have relatives making the trip from Saskatchewan to catch the games during our swing."
The Americans (36-12-0-1, 73 points), who lead the U.S. Division, Western Conference and have the best record in the WHL, will follow tonight's contest with games Friday at the Edmonton Oil Kings and Sunday at the Calgary Hitmen.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
Tri-City made the first half of its Central trip in November, finishing 1-2 with a win over Lethbridge and losses to Medicine Hat and Kootenay.
"We were on the road a lot early and had success," said Americans coach Jim Hiller, whose team is 14-7-0-1 away from Toyota Center. "Part of what this league is about is playing at an elite level and seeing different parts of the world. It's a good way for a young guy to learn about life."
Feser isn't the only Tri-City player close to home this week. Goalie Drew Owsley and forward Patrick Holland are from Lethbridge, forwards Jordan Messier and Nils Moser are from Canmore, Alberta -- which is where the Americans practiced Monday -- and rookie defenseman Drydn Dow is from Calgary.
"It's always nice to play at home," Hiller said. "But sometimes you don't always get the best result -- the players tend to put a lot of pressure on themselves."
The Rebels (25-19-0-4, 54 points), once one of the most feared programs in the WHL, are sitting eighth in the Eastern Conference, one point out of seventh place and two points out of sixth. They missed the playoffs the last two years.
"We are in a tight playoff race and for us this is a good challenge," said Red Deer coach Jesse Wallin, who played his entire WHL career with the Rebels (1994-98). "Going in, we are looking to win and get two points. If you have to settle for one (point), it's better than none."
Red Deer has had success against the U.S. Division this season, going 3-1 with wins over Portland, Seattle and Spokane, and a 3-0 loss to Everett.
The Americans are 9-14-1-1 lifetime against the Rebels, but have beaten them the last three years.
"(The Americans) are a good team with a lot of skill, speed up front and a veteran group of defensemen that don't make a lot of mistakes," Wallin said. "We need to manage the puck and play the style we do to create offense."