Plattsburgh State graduates Melissa Sheeran and Kayla Meneghin will be continuing their hockey careers on the professional stage after they were signed by the National Women’s Hockey League’s Connecticut Whale on Sept. 5.
The news followed the Aug. 26 draft for the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, the NWHL’s counterpart north of the border, in which 2016 alumna Andrea Ziesmann, selected by the Toronto Furies, joined the list of former Cardinals drafted to that league. That list includes current PSUC assistant coach Danielle Blanchard, the 31st pick in 2010’s inaugural CWHL draft.
Division III players are establishing a bigger presence in leagues that feature rosters predominantly filled by Division I graduates and member of USA Hockey and Hockey Canada’s Olympic teams.
For Sheeran and Meneghin, the opportunity to play in the NWHL is a dream come true.
“Everybody grows up playing a sport wanting to be a professional,” Sheeran said. “ Of course, there were always thoughts of ‘maybe I’m not good enough,’ so I’m very thankful for the opportunity.”
Toward the end of their record-setting careers with the Cards, neither Sheeran nor Meneghin were prepared to hang up the skates quite yet. While other alumnae have gone to Europe for a season or two, that wasn’t what Meneghin wanted to do.
“I wanted to play a little bit more, but I knew I didn’t want to go overseas,” Meneghin said. “I wanted to stay here.”
That the PSUC standouts signed together was no accident, as the pair had discussed the offer before making the decision.
“It was kind of ‘If you do it, I’m going to do it,’” Meneghin said.
Sheeran, for her part, was excited about the opportunity to continue playing with Meneghin, her linemate for nearly her entire career with the Cards.
“Four years were definitely not enough for me,” Sheeran said.
PSUC head coach Kevin Houle was excited to see the two forwards given this opportunity, but wasn’t surprised about Plattsburgh’s player getting attention at the professional level.
“If you look at D3 hockey, we’re not bragging when we say that we’ve been one of the top teams over the last 15 years,” Houle said. “Certainly, for the last five or six [years] we’ve been at the very top of the heap. I would expect that we have players who move on and get recognized.”
The pair of Cards are not the only Division III alumnae in the league, nor are they unique on their own team. Other former D3 standouts on the Whale’s roster include Middlebury’s Emily Fluke, Elmira’s Sarah Hughson, Hamilton’s Sam Walther and Norwich’s Sarah Schwenzfeier and Kaycie Anderson.
Meneghin, who played with Walther and Hughson at the prep school level before enrolling at PSUC, doesn’t believe collegiate rivalries will be an issue on the team.
“You kind of know everybody, because the hockey world is so small,” Meneghin said. “Yeah, Norwich and Plattsburgh are huge rivals, but just because that’s a rivalry on the ice doesn’t mean that we aren’t going to be friends off the ice.”
For Meneghin,this isn’t just an opportunity to sit on the bench. While her only goal is to play her part in helping the Whale win, she believes the best way she can do that is with her playmaking ability.
“I want to bring the intensity that I had at Plattsburgh,” Meneghin said.
Meneghin hopes that the lessons she learned from Houle and Blanchard will help her find success on this new journey.
“Both were very skilled hockey players coming in here,” Houle said. “Hopefully we were able to teach them to become well-rounded players, play in all three zones and play with discipline.”
For Houle, the thing he is happiest to see is that both Sheeran and Meneghin have chosen to begin their coaching careers in addition to playing.
Because playing in the NWHL is a part-time job, most players have another source of income. Sheeran has taken a coaching role at the Millbrook School, where she once starred as a player, while Meneghin has been named the assistant coach at Division II’s St. Anselm College.
“I didn’t fall out of love with hockey; I wanted to give back,” Meneghin said. “I wanted to help other girls improve on the game. I can’t play forever, and I’ve known that I wanted to coach since I was 16.”
Playing professional hockey in Stamford, Connecticut and coaching in Manchester, New Hampshire – a distance of more than 200 miles – will not be an easy task for Meneghin.
“It’s just organizing and knowing what you can and cannot do,” Meneghin said.
While balancing the two jobs will not be an easy task, Meneghin knows exactly how long she plans to play at the professional level.
“As long as they want me to,” Meneghin said.
The Connecticut Whale’s first game is at Terry Conners Ice Rink in Stamford Oct. 7 at 3 p.m. against the Buffalo Beauts.
Email Nathanael LePage at firstname.lastname@example.org