Hockey players bond, Chartiers Valley benefits
During the first period of Chartiers Valley's 5-2 win over Franklin Regional last week, Evegeny Koptsov collected the puck near the boards and was met with a hard check.
When the check led to some extracurricular activity, Anthony Franks skated over to help his Colts teammate.
Franks received 12 minutes in the penalty box for his actions, but he said it was just natural to help his close friend.
"It is like an instinct for any hockey player," Franks said. "If it is a cheap hit or when numbers aren't in his favor, I want to help him out. We are like brothers."
When Koptsov, a native of St. Petersburg, came to America from Russia last summer for a hockey camp, Franks went out of his way to interact with him.
"One of my teammates on my line couldn't play, so they put Evegeny on my line," Franks recalled. "I knew he couldn't speak English really well, so I wanted to help him out."
They became friends despite the language barrier. During the camp, Pittsburgh Vipers amateur hockey team coaches noticed Koptsov's ability. Koptsov shared the interest, and began the process of relocating from Russia to Pittsburgh. The Franks were asked by the Vipers to host Koptsov.
"We were blindsided a little bit at first," said Lisa Franks, Anthony's mother. "(But) our son was all for it. They are really close. They are truly like brothers."
The transition begins
Koptsov began attending Chartiers Valley with Franks. It was hard," Koptsov said. "English and stuff was the hardest thing."
He joined the CV hockey team.
Chartiers Valley Coach Lou Biancanello said Koptsov used some basic terminology to get into the flow with his Colts teammates.
"I think he got help learning to count in practice by watching the reps in a drill," Biancanello said. "He would watch the drill and count and say, 'Three more coach!' And early on he was able to communicate just by saying stuff like 'I shoot. I pass. I score.'
"He is a very bright kid, and he picked up English pretty quickly. I think sometimes when I yell at him for something still, he pretends to not be able to speak English anymore."
The duo of Franks and Koptsov have been a threat on the ice, despite both missing some games.
Koptsov was held out early in the 2011-12 season to make sure he was fully cleared by the PIHL, debuting with the Colts on Dec. 12 against North Hills. He scored six goals and recorded an assist.
He didn't play for another month because he went to Russia for the holidays, but returned Jan. 12.
In eight games with Chartiers Valley this season, Koptsov has 15 goals and 10 assists. His 25 points is second to only Justin Sabilla on the the Colts' roster.
"Hockey isn't too different," Koptsov said when comparing his time in Russia to America. "I have played for 10 years. I just play hard."
Franks tore his meniscus at the beginning of the seasons and didn't play in November. He has six goals and 17 assists this season.
Franks' 17 helpers this season ties him with Sabilla for first among the Colts (14-4-0).
Both athletes have been important parts in the Colts' six-game winning streak, which helped them grab the second-place spot in Class AA from rival Bishop Canevin (13-4-1).
Franks said his team's confidence level is high, and the Colts are expecting to finish the regular season strong.
In his own way, Koptsov says more: "I think we win championship."