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World Championship Now Underway

by Aaron Lopez / Colorado Avalanche
A pair of Avalanche players, one Colorado prospect and the head coach of the club’s American Hockey League affiliate will represent the organization at the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation Men’s World Championship.

The 73rd annual event, which is being held this year in Berne and Zurich-Kloten, Switzerland, runs from Friday, April 24 through Sunday, May 10.

Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles will represent the United States at the event, while blueliner Ruslan Salei will suit up for his native Belarus. In addition, prospect Jonas Holos will skate for Team Norway.

Liles will be making his second appearance at the IIHF Men’s World Championship, having previously suited up for Team USA in 2005. The backliner also played for the United States at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games and the 2004 World Cup of Hockey.

Team USA will spend the preliminary round in Group C and will open the event with a Saturday tilt against Latvia.

Salei has been a major contributor to the Belarus National Team during his career, having made four previous appearances at the World Championships (1998, 2000, ‘01 and ‘08). The defenseman also represented his country at the 1998 Olympic Winter Games in Nagano, Japan (where he became the first NHL player to ever participate in the Olympics) and the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Belarus will test its luck in Group A, where it opens with a tough contest against Canada on Friday.

Holos – the Avalanche’s sixth selection (sixth round, 170th overall) in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft – spent the 2008-09 season with Farjestads BK of the Swedish Elite League. The blueliner notched 16 points (8g/8a) in 55 regular season contests and added six points (3g/3a) in 13 postseason games as Farjestads captured the league’s regular season and playoff championships.

The 21-year-old Holos’ appointment to Team Norway marks his fourth appearance at the World Championships (2006-08). Norway has been placed in Group D and will open the event on Saturday against Finland.

In addition to the three players, the Avalanche organization will also be represented by Joe Sacco, head coach of the Lake Erie Monsters. Sacco is serving as an assistant coach for Team USA.

As a player, Sacco skated for Team USA at six World Championships and also wore his country’s colors at the 1989 IIHF World Junior Championship and the 1992 Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, France. This will be his first time joining the coaching staff for Team USA.

Stay tuned to for updates on the 2009 IIHF Men’s World Championship.

Click here for a complete schedule and statistics from the event.
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