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UMass defenseman Conor Allen signs with NY Rangers

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>UMass defenseman Conor Allen, left, signed a two-year contrack with the New York Rangers Friday.

    GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
    UMass defenseman Conor Allen, left, signed a two-year contrack with the New York Rangers Friday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>UMass defenseman Conor Allen signed a two-year contrack with the New York Rangers Friday.

    GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
    UMass defenseman Conor Allen signed a two-year contrack with the New York Rangers Friday. Purchase photo reprints »

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>UMass defenseman Conor Allen, left, signed a two-year contrack with the New York Rangers Friday.
  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO<br/>UMass defenseman Conor Allen signed a two-year contrack with the New York Rangers Friday.

Rumored earlier in the week, Conor Allen’s departure from the University of Massachusetts hockey program became official Friday.

The junior defenseman signed a two-year rookie free agent contract with the New York Rangers Friday afternoon.

“I got a couple offers at the end of the year. I evaluated everything and talked to my family and people I trusted and I decided to turn pro. It was the best thing for my career,” said Allen, who had interest from a handful of teams. “It was a hard decision to make, but I’m really happy I decided to go with the Rangers. I think it will be a good fit. Hopefully I play well.”

The idea that he was about to fulfill his dream of playing professional hockey hadn’t quite sunk in.

“It’s surreal. Especially with an original six team like the New York Rangers. It’s really amazing,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s hit me yet, but it’s pretty cool.”

The Chicago native was UMass’ top scoring defenseman with five goals and 14 assists. According to UMass coach John Micheletto, he also led the team in minutes played, a stat the program doesn’t keep publicly. He was a regular on the power-play and penalty-killing units.

Allen finished his three-year career with 14 goals and 25 assists in 99 games.

“His versatility was a real key for us,” Micheletto said. “He led our team in time on ice. Any guy that’s playing 22 minutes a night is going to be hard to replace. The guys we have coming back will be expected to pick up the slack.”

Micheletto said Allen had attributes that set him up well for a successful career.

“You look at the package of big kid, that moves well, can join the rush, can play a rugged shut-down game,” Micheletto said. “As versatile as he was for us, I’m sure that’s what’s intriguing to the pro teams. I don’t know that anyone can step from being a college kid to an NHL all-star overnight, but if he continues to hone his craft, he’ll put himself in pretty good position.”

Allen thanked Micheletto, former coach Toot Cahoon and their staffs for helping him reach this point.

“All the coaches really helped prepare me to get this chance,” he said. “Coming to UMass was the best decision I made so far in my life. It was tough leaving. Hopefully this is a good decision too.”

He expected to start his professional career with the American Hockey League’s Connecticut Whale. He wasn’t in uniform against the Springfield Falcons Friday night in Springfield, but could see action April 5 when the Whale and Falcons square off again in Hartford, Conn. He thought that with the proximity of Amherst and Hartford that he wouldn’t have to move.

“We’ll see what happens, but I think I’ll just live in Amherst,” he said.

Micheletto didn’t think any other players were on the verge of departing, but didn’t rule out the possibility.

“We’ve had a couple conversations with guys, but Conor, of all the guys, seemed like the one where it looked like it might happen,” Micheletto said. “As it stands right now I don’t know if we’ll see anyone else go.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at mvautour@gazettenet.com. Follow UMass coverage on Twitter at @GazetteUMass. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.

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