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Coyotes sign Hobey Baker finalist Andy Miele

by Jerry Brown
One week ago, Andy Miele was on the ice in Manchester, N.H., trying to lead Miami of Ohio to the Frozen Four for the third time. Seven days later he landed in Arizona, preparing for his first NHL practice with a chance to help the Phoenix Coyotes reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound center, who went undrafted but had the attention of more than 20 NHL teams after leading the NCAA in scoring this season, signed with the Coyotes on Saturday. He arrived in Phoenix Saturday evening and will practice with the team on Monday.

"It's been the most incredible week, but it might have taken a year off my life," said Miele, one of the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award after collecting 24 goals and 71 points in just 39 games as a senior for the RedHawks. "I can't believe that a week ago I was playing my last college game and this week I'm a pro."

Miele had plenty of suitors, but he said his meetings with general manager Don Maloney convinced him that Phoenix was the best situation – and the best fit.  He isn't eligible for the postseason – he signed after the trade deadline – but could help over the final week of the regular season.

Phoenix has three games left, beginning Wednesday in Los Angeles, and has had injury problems at center. The Coyotes have been playing without Martin Hanzal for the last month and Lauri Korpikoski for the last week.

The Coyotes have taken chances with undersized centers before, drafting Daniel Briere with the 24th pick in the 1996 Entry Draft and highlighting players like Cliff Ronning, Daymond Langkow, Trevor Letowski and Matthew Lombardi in the middle. They have been looking for another offensive-minded center – both now and for the future – since Lombardi left as a free agent last summer.

"We'll see what the team has planned for me, but I'm incredibly excited," Miele said. "My dream is to play in the NHL and there is a possibility that can come soon, but there are no guarantees. If it doesn't happen this week, it's not the end of the world."

The 22-year-old Miele described himself as "a playmaker that scores goals," and his statistics bear that out. His 71 points were 11 more than any other player in the nation and the most since Peter Sejna had 82 for Colorado College in 2002-03. The CCHA Player of the Year had 40 assists and 56 points in league play, helping Miami to the first Mason Cup in school history. But the RedHawks were upset 3-1 by New Hampshire in the first round of the NCAA Northeast Regional last Saturday.

Miami won 108 games during Miele's four years, making four NCAA Tournament appearances and reaching the Frozen Four twice. Miele knows he's moving up in class and will have to prove himself again as an undrafted and undersized player, but is ready for the challenge.

"I don't think about my size on the ice and I try to play the kind of game that keeps other people from thinking about it," he said. I'm a feisty player, and I try to give as good as I get and let people know I'm not going to be pushed around.

"I was upset that I wasn't drafted, but I knew why and it just fueled my fire. You want to prove to everyone that passed on you that they made a mistake. Now I have a chance and it's up to me to make it happen."

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