Adis Ultanbekov is from the same hometown as one of his hockey heroes, Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin.
The Bishop McCort Catholic international student had a game like a young Malkin on Tuesday night at 1st Summit Arena.
The 16-year-old forward from Magnitogorsk, Russia, scored five goals and dished out three assists in the Crimson Crushers' 8-2 victory over city rival Westmont Hilltop in the PIHL Class A Southeast Division. Each team entered the game with a 1-0-0 record.
“My teammates help me. If they wasn’t here, I can’t do it,” Ultanbekov said outside the Crushers’ locker room. “The two quick goals were very important in the game. We had more power and motivation.”
Ultanbekov and linemate Bryce Bair teamed up on a pair of goals by the Russian at 1:35 and 3:45 of the opening period.
Westmont Hilltop answered with Kobe Rickabaugh’s unassisted tally at 6:55.
Bair, Ultanbekov and Cam Bunn (power play) each had goals before Westmont’s Payton Sell made it a 5-2 score with 47 seconds remaining in the first period.
“We have a young team, 10 freshmen and six sophomores,” Westmont Hilltop coach Art McQuillan said. “We were in a little bit of a hole early, but they were resilient. They kept scrapping, got to some loose pucks.
“We’re not going to apologize for our effort,” McQuillan said. “We continued to battle and had a good third period, played them even pretty much in the third. We’ll learn from this and keep moving forward.”
The Crimson Crushers pulled away with three second-period goals – one by Bair and two more by Ultanbekov.
Neither team scored in the final period. Bishop McCort finished with a 46-12 advantage in shots on goal.
“We’re getting there. It’s early,” said Crushers coach John Bradley, whose team had only 12 skaters on Tuesday after playing their first game with nine. “You start the hockey season in September. You don’t have a ton of kids and kids are playing multiple sports. Kids are dealing with sickness. We’re just trying to go forward, keep our feet on the ground, make good decisions and work hard.”
Bishop McCort goaltender Cole Bradley stopped 10 of 12 shots. Westmont Hilltop’s senior Darren Replogle had 38 saves.
Ultanbekov scored on all five of his shots on goal.
“The Crushers are a very good team. Everyone helps me. Coach, Cole (Bradley), everyone helps me,” Ultanbekov said.
Elite Hockey Prospects lists Ultanbekov at 5-foot-11, 183 pounds. He is a member of the Esmark Stars 18-U team that plays in the North American Prospects Hockey League.
“I told our kids they will not compete against a better hockey player this year in high school or any of their travel leagues,” McQuillan said.
Ultanbekov’s coach believes he has potential to be even better as he matures.
“For a young kid, he is a very gifted hockey player,” Bradley said. “He plays the game extremely well. He’s very smart.
“He knows the game inside and out and does the little things. A lot of opportunities.
“He shoots the puck well. He gives it up a lot.
“I’d be hard-pressed if there is a better kid in high school hockey around, especially at his age,” Bradley said.
Ultanbekov’s hero, Malkin, is injured and might be out a month or more. But playing in Western Pennsylvania eventually might enable the young forward to one day attend a Penguins game.
“I’m from the same city with Malkin but I never met him,” Ultanbekov said. “I hope soon I meet him.”
Added Bradley, who was a college roommate and remains close to Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, “Hopefully we get them to meet. That’s one of his idols. He plays the game like him. He’s a big, strong kid and he does a lot well. He’s a great teammate.”