Skilled McManus blazing a trail in the Midwest
Several hockey coaches should send thank you cards to Ryan and James Anderson if they haven’t already.
They’re the ones who inspired younger brother Brannon McManus to play hockey, and 1999 birth year from Newport Beach has spent the past several years blazing a trail through the sport.
“My brothers got me into it, and I never stopped,” McManus said.
Not only was the forward a ringleader on the LA Selects’ Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament championship team in 2011, but he also helped prestigious prep school Shattuck-St. Mary’s win its first Bantam and Midget 16U USA Hockey national titles the past two years. And he’s fresh off helping Team USA go undefeated in August’s Five Nations tournament and faring well at the recent Four Nations tournament in Slovakia.
And he’s done it all with the widest of grins.
“He just loves the game,” his Selects coach, Shawn Pitcher, said. “He always had a smile on his face, whether he was at practice, a game or taking a lesson.”
Added McManus, “Going to practice after school was my happy time. I’ve always carried that with me, and I will for the rest of my life.”
In the immediate future that will include helping his junior team, the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) Omaha Lancers, lock up a playoff berth in quest of a Clark Cup championship and then moving on in 2017 to the University of Minnesota, where he committed while at Shattuck.
“(Minnesota) felt comfortable,” McManus said. “They play a more skilled game, which suits my game. I was very lucky to have such a great program interested in me.”
The calling card for the 5-foot-9, 175-pound McManus is skill, which has kept him at or near the top of Omaha’s scoring chart all season. That should come as no surprise given he scored 206 points in 120 games at Shattuck and led all participants at last summer’s USA Hockey Select 16 Festival with 11 points in five games.
McManus’ talent and commitment to cultivating it is obvious to his junior teammates, who include Pacific Palisades’ Nick Rivera, a Minnesota State University, Mankato commit, and Poway’s Brian Williams, who recently committed to the University of Massachusetts.
“He’s a very skilled forward, and it’s been fun watching him grow, on and off the ice, during the first half of the season,” Rivera said. “He adds a lot of offense and skill upfront for our team. He’s always decisive with the puck and has a great talent for finding the back of the net.
“He also brings a lot of leadership as a young forward, demonstrating hard work and a high passion for the game.”
McManus’ nose for the net was pretty obvious from an early age, Pitcher said, but so was his ability to think the game.
“He always wants to learn, and his hockey IQ is off the charts,” Pitcher said. “He anticipates well and is very offensive-minded.”
Any discussion about his accomplishments takes backstage to his teams’ accomplishments at Quebec and nationals, however.
“Obviously, Quebec is a great memory because every 12-year-old who’s ever laced them up wants to play there,” he said. “When you skate out and there are 15,000 people watching you, it’s like a dream.
“It was a risk going to Shattuck because you don’t know what to expect, but I was lucky we had a really good team and coach, and we won the school’s first Bantam national title. Half of that Bantam team has committed to Division I schools already.
“Then to get the first one at 16U, it wasn’t easy to leave.”
But the call of the USHL – with older, bigger and faster players – was too much to resist. Havin fellow Californians – and team leaders – Rivera, the Lancers’ captain, and Williams, an alternate, in place eased the transition.
“They’re both great captains, and I’m very lucky to have them as teammates,” he said.
One gets the impression that should more accolades come in the future, luck won’t be the only reason.
– Chris Bayee