LAS VEGAS, Nev.—The Las Vegas Wranglers, the winningest team in ECHL history and an affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League (NHL), announced they have signed UMass Boston defenseman Rob Florentino (West Roxbury, Mass.).
Florentino, a three-year member of the Beacons men's hockey team, becomes the first player under head coach Peter Belisle to sign with an ECHL team directly out of college. The Beacons have sent a handful of players to professional leagues during Belisle's seven seasons, including Bill Baker (Huntsville Havoc), Matt Atsoff (Augusta RiverHawks) and Gentry Zollars (Wheeling Nailers).
"We tell kids all the time that you can play pro hockey out of Divison III, but you've got to be the best in Division III to have that opportunity," Belisle said. "I think Rob Florentino was one of the best at his position in the nation and he's getting a great opportunity to play pro hockey."
"It's awesome for Rob and it's great exposure for our program. If we can have All-League, All-American type kids we can move them on to the next level, that'd be great for our program and great for them-provided they graduate. We're going to make sure that Rob graduates when it's all said and done."
The senior from West Roxbury made his professional debut Wednesday evening in a 4-0 loss to the Ontario Reign.
In his three seasons with the Beacons, Florentino was one of the top offensive defenseman in the ECAC East, finishing with 18 points or more in every season. This year, he enjoyed a career season, recording seven goals, 21 assists and 28 points. He finished his career at UMass Boston with the third-most points amongst defenseman in school history with 64.
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound assistant captain was named to the ECAC East First Team in February, becoming only the fifth player in school history to be named to the First Team. Earlier that month, Florentino was named a Joe Concannon Award Semifinalist, for the best American born Division II/Division III player in New England.
The ECHL is a professional hockey league that feeds into the American Hockey League and NHL. Eleven former Wranglers have gone on to play in the NHL, including former collegiate players John Curry (Boston University), Tyson Strachan (Ohio State University) and Matt McKenna (St. Lawrence University).
Florentino joins a familiar foe on the Wranglers bench, as Castleton State College senior forward Josh Harris signed with the team earlier this week.