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Competing for Country: 3 Coyotes are Skating at IIHF World Championship

by Dave Vest / Arizona Coyotes
GLENDALE -- Three members of the Coyotes – defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson and forwards Mikkel Boedker and Andy Miele – are set to compete for their home countries at the 2011 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia.

The 16-team tournament begins Friday and runs until May 15. Click here to visit the tournament’s official Web site.

“We encourage our players to go play in this event because we want our players to get used to playing in April and May, and June, for that matter,” Coyotes Assistant General Manager Brad Treliving said. “For young players like these three guys, it’s important that they recognize that we don’t want our season to end in the first week of April, and for them to know what it takes – mentally and physically – to play an extended season.”

Boedker is playing for Denmark. Click here to read more.

Ekman-Larsson, who played 48 games for the Coyotes as a rookie in 2010-11, will represent Sweden at this tournament for the second time. He and his fellow Swedes won the bronze medal in 2010. In nine games, Ekman-Larsson chipped in a goal and two assists.

“We’re looking at this tournament not as the end of his season but as the beginning of next year,” Treliving said. “I think he’s going to have a lot of responsibility for that team… He likes to compete and he likes to win. I think he’ll do well.”

Ekman-Larsson notched a goal and 10 assists for the Coyotes in 2010-11. He also played 15 games for Phoenix’s top affiliate in the American Hockey League and notched three goals and seven assists. All and all, it was a solid first season on North American ice for the 19-year-old, whom the Coyotes selected with the sixth overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Photo by Getty Images.
“I think he had an excellent first season,” Treliving said. “It’s obvious to see his talent is there and the sky is the limit for him in this League. I think with Oliver it’s all about physically maturing and, like a lot of young guys, he’s got to get stronger.”

Playing in the IIHF World Championship was a no-brainer for Ekman-Larsson, who loves to compete for Sweden. The Coyotes are pleased he will participate.

“There are elite players in this tournament and any time our young players can compete with or against them it can only make them better players,” Treliving said.

Team Sweden is in Group C with the United States, Norway and Austria. The Swedes will play their first preliminary-round match on Saturday vs. Norway.

For Miele, this event will be an introduction to playing against pro hockey players and his first time playing for the United States.

“I’m very excited,” Miele said. “I never thought I would ever wear the USA jersey. It’s a dream come true for me.”

The Coyotes signed Miele just days after he completed his senior season at Miami University, and he practiced with the team during the final week of the regular season and the playoffs.

“The time I spent with the Coyotes was unbelievable,” Miele said. “It’s such a great group of guys. I learned a lot on and off the ice being with them.”

Andy Miele.
Miele led the NCAA with 71 points in 39 games for Miami in 2010-11, and he won the 2011 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s top player. He expects playing in this tournament will be a great way to start his post-college path to the NHL.

“It will absolutely help,” Miele said. “Getting the chance to play against professional players in this setting will help ease the transition because I’m doing it a little bit at a time.”

Treliving agreed.

“I think this will be a great measuring stick for Andy to see where he is,” Treliving said. “This is not a shinny game. This is a good tournament with world-class players, so we’re really interested to see how he fares. This is going to be a new experience for him because everything is going to be bigger and faster than it was for him in college. It’s a good test and will be a wonderful experience for him.”

Team USA is in Group C with Sweden, Norway and Austria. The Americans will play their first preliminary-round match on Saturday vs. Austria.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Andy Miele has been tweeting from Slovakia. Follow him on this adventure @Andy_Miele.
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