Make all of the “UNH is the Pride development program” jokes you want, it’s clear that the Wildcats certainly have made an impression on Paul Mara and Karilyn Pilch. After signing undrafted free agent Carlee Turner last week, the team announced Tuesday that they had inked their two 2020 draft picks from Durham, Taylor Wenczkowski (18th) and Meghara McManus (29th). In doing so, the team signed the entire top line of the Wildcats, as Turner spent a large portion of the season between Wenczkowski and McManus.
Wenczkowski, 22, was a red-shirt senior this past season and one of the team’s three co-captains, all of whom will now suit up in the NWHL this fall (Turner was one, as was Connecticut’s #7 overall selection Tori Howran). Wenczkowski is a natural goal scorer, with a lightning-quick release and a dangerous one-timer. After missing much of her sophomore year due to injury issues, she came back strong, and scored no fewer than 20 points in each of her final three seasons. That included a breakout junior campaign, which saw the Rochester, New Hampshire native tally a career high 20 goals en-route to an All-Hockey East 3rd Team selection, and an invitation to the US National Development Camp over the offseason. She saw a dip in her goal scoring this season, but took it in stride and provided a more balanced offensive piece for the Wildcats to utilize. Pilch also praised her ability to play with an edge, something that will benefit her at the next level. Her shot selection can sometimes be suspect – due to the strength of her shot she tends to settle for outside attempts rather than driving towards high danger opportunities (to be clear – she can get away with this to some extent because of how lethal her release is), and that edge can sometimes spiral into a red mist-type rage, but if you provide her with a pivot who can consistently feed her the puck in advantageous situations, you have a top goal scorer on your hands. Despite her edge leading to a higher-than-usual penalty count, she does create a reasonable number of powerplay opportunities by using her speed and willingness to attempt to go through her opponent. And have I mentioned the one-timer? Because it’s REALLY freaking good.
McManus, 22, had a career year, finishing off her time with the Wildcats by leading the team in goals and points for the first time. While goal-scoring is one of her better attributes, it’s not the key to her game. She scores most of her goals from right in front of the net – either off of a breakaway or by being willing to muck it up in the crease and win loose puck battles. She plays with a fearless, and borderline reckless abandon, always willing to engage physically and consistently winning races and board battles. Her netfront ability is not only deadly, but efficient – in her four years at UNH, her shooting percentage never dipped below 11%, despite averaging 91 shots per season, and tallied double-digit goals in her final three seasons. As a forward, she accumulated 123 blocks across her entire career, meaning an average of 25 blocks per season. This is primarily due to her penalty-killing prowess, and willingness to sacrifice literally any part of her body to get in the shooting lane. She’s also a pain to play against. Despite taking 20 penalties in her final two seasons at UNH, she drew an utterly absurd 65 minors against her in that timeframe. That level of ability is unparalleled, and it cannot go unstated how dangerous it is for the Pride to be able to put their litany of offensive weapons on the powerplay. She’s always talking on the ice, and has been known to start a few scrums. The Milton, Massachusetts native has always had to work hard for her success, and earned every bit of it – I expect nothing less as she begins her career as a professional.
If anyone is curious as to what to expect from either one of these players, I offer you the Season Highlight videos from each of the past two seasons. 2018-19 features Wenczkowski (#12) prominently, and 2019-20 features McManus (#24) prominently. Enjoy.
Now to the biased part of it. I worked with both of these players closely over the past two seasons. I’ve eaten dinner with the team at Meghara’s house (@cateringbyterrie on Instagram, the food is incredible), and I literally grew up playing with and against Taylor. Both of them have worked incredibly hard for this opportunity, and I’m so unbelievably proud of them. They deserve this. And I see plenty of untapped potential for both of them. It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with them, and I’m jealous of the Pride organization getting to work with the trio of ladies they have added this past week. Taylor, Meghara, Carlee, congratulations. You’ve earned it. Now let’s go get that Cup!
Stay tuned to Pride Diehards (@PrideDiehards on Twitter) for any additional signings and news out of our favorite women’s professional hockey team!
By: Spencer Fascetta | Follow me on Twitter @PuckNerdHockey