Tri-City Americans

The Americans host annual Breast Cancer Awareness game tonight

Mitch Topping has been a champion of causes during his time with the Tri-City Americans.

Topping and Americans team captain Justin Feser are involved with the local MDA chapter. He makes appearances at local school, hospitals and helped build a Habitat for Humanity house.

“I don’t go to school, so I want to put my interests where they can help,” said Topping, a native of Red Deer, Alberta. “The community appreciates what we do and I get a kick out of it.”

On Wednesday, Topping and the rest of the Americans leadership group toured the Tri-Cities Cancer Center in advance of tonight’s annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game against the Everett Silvertips.

“It’s an amazing facility,” Topping said. “I didn’t realize how much they depend on donations and our game. They thanked us upward of 10 times while we were there. The city embraces that facility and it’s amazing what they have done for people. This game means a little more to us now. (Today) will be a great experience.”

The annual Breast Cancer Awareness Game has raised $114,075 in seven years, including more than $20,000 in each of the last three years.

Tri-City is 5-2 all-time on Breast Cancer Awareness Night, with Everett making its second appearance in the event. The Americans defeated the Silvertips 2-0 in the first BCA game in 2006.

Breast cancer survivor Barrie Keene DeSoto of Kennewick will drop the ceremonial puck for tonight’s game.

“This is the best birthday present I have ever had,” said DeSoto, who turns 64 today.

DeSoto, an Americans season ticket holder for 25 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2002. It took three rounds of X-rays before DeSoto was confident in the diagnoses. After careful consideration, she opted for a mastectomy.

She was able to forgo chemotherapy and radiation and has had a clean bill of health for eight years.

“I made the right decision for me,” she said. “I’d do it again in heart beat. I did a little research and because of the way the tumors were, the best way was to take the whole breast and they were able to get everything.”

And DeSoto is vigilant in keeping her annual appointments.

“Just because it’s gone and hasn’t shown up for years, doesn’t mean it can’t come back,” she said. “Especially with breast cancer, because it can go into the bone. It can spread pretty rapidly if it wants to.”

DeSoto is happy to see the Americans jump on board and help a worthy cause for women in the Tri-Cities.

“A lot of kids wouldn’t think to do a thing about it,” DeSoto said. “These guys decided it was a way to give back to the community. I think it’s something that all people in one way or another can identify with. Most of us have known someone who has gone through cancer of some kind.”

DeSoto’s dad Harvey Keene was instrumental in helping bring the Americans to the Tri-Cities in the late 1980s, and she has been a fan from the start.

“You can spend money on whatever you want for entertainment — sit in bar on the weekends, go to the movies, what have you,” DeSoto said. “But with hockey, there is excitement and you get involved with the people around you. It’s one big family.”

While supporting a worthy cause is the theme of tonight’s game, the Americans (34-22-1-2, 71 points) are looking to pick up two points to stay in fourth place in the Western Conference standings.

Spokane lurks just one point back, while Victoria is two points behind.

“It’s coming down to crunch time.” said Topping, who leads the Tri-City defensemen in scoring with 10 goals and 24 assists. “We need these points. We have to have the attitude we did with Portland and Spokane. We can’t discount Everett (21-34-1-4, 47 points), they are fighting for a playoff spot.”

Tri-City is 6-1-0-1 against the Silvertips this season, and have won the last two meetings.

Saturday, the Americans will host the Edmonton Oil Kings for their lone game this season.

The Oil Kings (43-13-2-3, 91 points), who are at Spokane tonight, lead the Eastern Conference and are second to Portland (101 points) in the race for the Scotty Munro trophy for the best record during the regular season.

The Americans have won their last three game against the Oil Kings, including a 5-4 overtime victory in Edmonton last year.

Edmonton is led by Michael St. Croix (31 goals, 43 assists, 74 points), Henrik Samuelsson (30, 43, 73) and Dylan Wruck (18, 55, 73).

Notes: Feser, who leads the Americans in scoring with 35 goals and 48 assists (83 points), will play his 309th consecutive game tonight. The WHL record is 311, held by Dwayne Newman. ... The Americans will bring in affiliate player Matthew Gelinas of Calgary, Alberta, for this weekend’s games. Gelinas is scoreless in five games during two stints with the Americans this season.