Manchester’s Paige Capistran had no intention of extending her hockey career past college.
The captain at Northeastern University, Capistran was going to play out the rest of her senior season with the nationally ranked Huskies then take her communications degree and joining the working world, preferably in Boston.
Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and Capistran’s Huskies were on hold, as it turns out, forever. We’ll never know how they would have fared in their first-round NCAA tournament game against Princeton.
And that feeling of unfinished business was what prompted Capistran to give professional hockey a chance — which she’ll get after being selected by the Boston Pride in the fifth round of the National Women’s Hockey League’s draft on Wednesday night.
“The way things ended — or didn’t end — I was thankful when the Pride gave me an opportunity to end things the way I want to end it.”
The Pride, coached by former NHL defenseman Paul Mara, is one of six teams in the league, which was established in 2015. At the time of the pandemic, Boston was scheduled to play Minnesota in the league championship on March 13. According to the NWHL website, the fate of the final has yet to be announced.
Capistran, who played in 145 career games for NU, will join two other Granite Staters on the Pride: forward Taylor Wenczkowski of Rochester, drafted in the third round on Wednesday, and defenseman Jenna Rheault of Deering. Wenczkowski is finishing her senior year at UNH; Rheault is a UNH product who played in all 25 games for the Pride in 2019-20.
Capistran followed the draft on Wednesday night with her parents in Manchester. Her coach at Northeastern, Merrimack, N.H.’s Dave Flint, had spoken with her before the draft and told her Boston was interested.
“I knew if I played, I wanted to play for them,” Capistran said. “Northeastern became my home. I love Boston.”
Capistran, who earned the Hockey East Sportsmanship Award in 2019-20, spoke with Mara last week, she said. “He called me, which was pretty cool. I’ve never met him, but when this (the pandemic) is over, I’ll be able to meet him and the rest of the team.”
The Pride play at Warrior Ice Arena, which also serves as the training facility for the Boston Bruins. Preseason camp is scheduled for September. “I’m optimistic that will happen,” Capistran said.
Wenczkowski, the Wildcats’ captain, and Meghara McManus (also drafted Wednesday by Boston) were the wingers on UNH’s most proficient scoring line last season, with Wenczkowski tallying seven goals and 14 assists for 21 points, and McManus notching a team-high 27 points (17 goals, 10 assists).
Wenczkowski tallied 82 career points in a UNH uniform, scoring 42 goals and notching 40 assists in 149 career games. Her sophomore season was cut short due to injury, but she responded in the 2017-18 season with a team-high 20 points. She followed that with a 20-goal season.
“Taylor is incredibly skilled, competitive and driven,” said UNH coach Hilary Witt. “I am very proud of her for her accomplishments and excited to see her succeed in professional hockey.”
The top pick from a local college was UNH defenseman Tori Howran, who went Tuesday in the second round (seventh overall) to the Connecticut Whale.
Also drafted on Wednesday were Franklin Pierce University defenseman Bridgette Prentiss (fourth round, by Buffalo) and McManus (fifth round, by Boston).