After each game, Manitoba Moose forward Marco Rosa can be seen gulping down this lumpy green concoction that looks, shall we say, not so refreshing.
It’s sort of a vegan protein shake consumed by Rosa, who is allergic to dairy.
How does it taste, Roca was asked recently.
Rosa screwed up his face. "Not great," he replied.
But for the Moose, that green goop might as well be liquefied spinach. And Rosa the second coming of Popeye.
Since returning to the Moose lineup after a 27-game absence (knee), Rosa scored his third goal and added a fourth assist in a 5-4 shootout victory over the visiting Rochester Americans that pushed Manitoba (42-27-1-5) back atop the North Division standings with 90 points, two clear of the Lake Erie Monsters.
It wasn’t easy, though. With the game knotted at 4-4 after overtime, the Moose won in the seventh round of the shootout on a beauty from veteran Garth Murray, who lifted a backhand to the top corner on Rochester netminder Marc Cheverie.
Rosa? Only a couple of shooters earlier, the slick Toronto-area native had Cheverie down and out, but slid the puck under the Americans’ goalie just wide of the left post.
But that’s just one of the few times the Moose’s leading scorer from last season has been off the mark of late.
However, it’s not just Rosa’s return that has emboldened the Moose, who finished an eight-game homestand with four consecutive victories.
With veteran captain Nolan Baumgartner missing a month (wrist), Manitoba’s already suspect power play, ranked consistently near the bottom of the league, became even less effective.
But since Baumgartner found his way back into the starting lineup 12 games ago, the Moose have scored 12 power-play goals — including three Wednesday night.
It’s no coincidence. Baumgartner assisted on Manitoba’s first goal, with the man advantage, then scored on the power play just 25 seconds into the third period to tie the score 3-3.
Just over two minutes later, rookie Moose defenceman Yann Sauve pulled Manitoba ahead 4-3, again on the power play.
In fact, the Moose seemed poised to add to their lead just a few minutes later when the Amerks found themselves short-handed. Wrong.
Inexplicably, for the second straight night, the Moose surrendered a tying goal short-handed. And both times on breakaways by Amerk Bill Thomas, no less.
On Tuesday night, the Amerks forward burst in alone, with Rochester short-handed, to beat Moose netminder Eddie Lack and tie the game 2-2. The Moose prevailed, however, when rookie Bill Sweatt notched his second of the game with just 33 seconds left to give Manitoba a critical 3-2 victory.
On Wednesday night, the Moose were ahead 4-3 early in third period, and again found themselves on the power play, poised to win their fourth straight. But darned if Thomas didn’t get sprung again behind the Moose defence and fire the tying goal past netminder Tyler Weiman.
It was like watching an instant replay. An ugly one.
What are the odds?
For the second night, however, the Moose eked out two valuable points with the shootout victory.
The Moose now have just five regular season games remaining.
With any luck, Rosa hasn’t run out of that not-so-delicious green protein.