Since his freshman year, Brendan Manning has listened to Rebel Hockey Assistant Coach Nick Robone repeat the phrase, “Leave the program better than you found it.”
It’s what he is hoping to do as he prepares to say farewell to the UNLV Hockey program.
Manning, a three-year starting forward has totaled 50 points in his UNLV career and is looking to cap off his final season with a championship.
“The job is definitely not finished yet. That’s the mentality that we have going into this is to finish the job and ride off into the sunset with a trophy,” Manning said.
When he was younger, Manning moved to upstate New York with his family, where his father grew up so Manning and his brother could follow in their father’s footsteps. There he spent two seasons with Victor High’s hockey team.
After a couple of years of playing juniors, Manning was left with the decision of where to play college hockey.
“My family used to vacation in Vegas growing up, and I always thought Vegas was an amazing place. I never would have thought I would have ended up here playing college hockey,” Manning said.
He explored some universities in Massachusetts and around the New Hampshire area. Despite the beautiful campuses, he couldn’t bear the idea of cold winters and walking through snow for the next four years.
“The program at UNLV was starting to take off and I thought about it and I was like well, I know Vegas is an amazing place in terms of weather. I love the city and I wanted to check out their hockey team and see how they handle their program.”
At only 18-years-old, Manning had reached out to head coach Anthony Vignieri-Greener with interest in joining the team. Being so young, Greener recommended another year of juniors before making the jump to college hockey.
Manning spent that year with the New England Wolves (Eastern Hockey League) where he tallied 12 goals and 13 assists (25 points) in 29 games.
Flash forward to the 2019-2020 season, Manning jumped on the opportunity to become a Rebel at such a young age after seeing how the program was run, the pool of talent, and the future of UNLV hockey. He was joining the roster as one of the youngest players to date.
Twice during the season, Manning was hit with the realization that he was officially a Skatin’ Rebel in Las Vegas.
Looking out the window and seeing the strip as Manning flew into Vegas for the first time his freshman year is a lasting memory for him.
“The other moment was when I was walking on the strip with a bunch of my teammates,” Manning said. “I remember, I just met these guys today. It was guys like Jake Berry and Nick Flanders… I just remember being like, damn, I’m really going to school in Vegas and playing hockey- this is pretty sweet.”
In his first year as a Rebel, he saw the ice for 28 games with 10 goals and 8 assists. As an underclassman on the team, Manning grew close with upperclassman Orion Linnehan.
“I owe a lot to Orion Linnehan. That kid- he’s still my best friend. We talk every day,” Manning said. “He was definitely the kid that opened my eyes to how to prepare for college hockey the right way.”
In his first game representing the scarlet and gray, the Rebels hosted the Colorado-Boulder Buffaloes at City National Arena. Before the puck drop, Manning was filled with excitement for the chance to finally play in front of the loud Vegas crowd.
During the series, Manning scored his first goal as a Rebel off an assist from Jake Saxe to kick off his college career on a high note.
After a long season with the team making it into the National Tournament, the dreams of winning were quickly shut down with the news of COVID-19 shutting everything down.
“It didn’t seem like it was something that serious that could affect our season like that,” Manning said. “I just remember finding out and being devastated because we had a pretty good team together.”
The Rebels returned for the 2021-22 season, where the team made program history by making it to the final four at the National Tournament. Manning scored 11 goals and had 11 assists (22 points) in the regular season and went on to play in three games for the tournament where he notched a goal and an assist.
So far for his senior season, he has seen 19 games of action with six goals and four assists as an assistant captain for the Rebels. Four of those games were NCAA Division I opponents as the UNLV hockey program continues to strive to the next level.
In November, the Rebels took on the NCAA Division I Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves at The Dollar Loan Center, home of the Henderson Silver Knights.
Being able to play in multiple arenas in Vegas during his time in the scarlet and gray, Manning hopes The Dollar Loan Center can continue to be a home for the Skatin’ Rebels.
Manning also hopes to leave the program in a better place by helping UNLV get its first national championship.
“We have four losses on the year now with 22 wins on the year, which is impressive. We’re more inside the top four at the moment,” Manning said. “Honestly, none of it means anything if we don’t win Nationals.”
Final Message for the Rebels
“My final message to the team is to take a second and appreciate what you have because we’re fortunate to live in Vegas, have the fans that we do, and play the sport that we love while having the supporting cast around us like our staff. Take a second wherever you are- at the rink, on the ice in the locker room, on the plane, bus, or even just at dinner with your teammates- just take a second to look around and realize how lucky we are to have everything that we do.”
Message for Incoming Recruits
“Listen to the guys that have done it because it might seem like they’re bossing you around, but these guys know everything- they’ve done it for multiple years. They’ve been in your position before. So whether it’s a coach or upperclassmen- just listen to them when they give you advice because it’s probably something that they’ve gone through. I would say try and find the balance between having fun and playing hockey because if you can get that down, you’ll have the best four years of your life but one mistake can take it all away.”