Bishop McCort Catholic entered Tuesday night’s Laurel Mountain Hockey League contest against Central Cambria short on bodies. But having players such as Adis Ultanbekov and goalie Nikita Volski in the lineup enabled the Crimson Crushers to adapt.
Ultanbekov had three goals, two assists and five points, and Volski stopped 19 of 20 shots on goal as the Crushers beat the Red Devils 9-1 at 1st Summit Arena @ Cambria County War Memorial. Bishop McCort Catholic is 2-0 in its first season in the LMHL after more than three decades in the PIHL (formerly WPIHL).
“We had a short bench, 10 people on the team, and it was a hard game,” said Ultanbekov, a second-year Crushers forward from Magnitogorsk, Russia. “The first period we were trying to play good. We win, so it was good.”
Ben Berkebile, who finished with two goals and four points, put Bishop McCort on the scoreboard 1:20 into the game.
Ultanbekov had a pair of first-period goals and Matt Ribblett scored as the Crushers built a 4-1 advantage. Michael Kuzilla tallied Central Cambria’s lone goal with 1:44 left in the opening period.
“We were short-handed coming in,” Bishop McCort coach John Bradley said. “We had 10 guys. We had some guys that were quarantined from other things. We were just trying to get pucks to the net and trying to keep it simple.
“We knew we had to get off to a good start because in certain situations the clock can sometimes be your best friend,” Bradley said. “We knew we needed to try to do it when we were fresh, come out hard and get it to the net.”
Ultanbekov, Lukas Cascino on the power play, Demian Tychenko and Berkebile each had second-period goals. Tychenko had a third-period goal.
Crushers goalie Volski was tested early, but the native of Minsk, Belarus, turned away nearly every shot he faced.
“As a sophomore I don’t know if I’ve seen a kid that plays that well,” said Bradley, a former Division I and professional goalie. “He’s outstanding. He makes everything look so easy. It almost looks like he’s not trying. He does everything right.
“He’s another guy devoted to getting better and doing the little things,” Bradley said. “He’s a hockey player 24-7. Those guys work. There is a reason why they’re so good. They put the effort in.”
Central Cambria had the league’s best record at 18-2 last season, but didn’t have an opportunity to contend for the playoff championship because the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the postseason.
“Our first game. A couple games got canceled. We don’t know what we really have yet,” Central Cambria coach Tom Eckenrod said. “I told our guys, ‘We’re playing both goalies.’ I thought they both did really well.”
Central Cambria goaltender Colin Hagens stopped 27 of 35 shots through two periods, and Charles Edwards had two saves on three third-period shots.
“I don’t think that’s the best team to start our first game out with because they’re really good,” Eckenrod said.
“We have adjustments to make. We’re not as strong as last year. But I think we’re still not bad. That was a good team we played and I thought we did well.”