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O say can you see, why the Yanks rub it in?

American Moose needle Canadian counterparts after U.S. Oly win

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They mocked each other. They argued with each other. Two players even almost fought each other, right out on the ice in the middle of practice.

A day after the U.S. beat Canada in men's hockey at the Vancouver Olympics, the Manitoba Moose were a club divided at Gateway Recreation Centre as the club snuck in one local practice in the midst of a two-week, seven-game road stand.

Most of the intra-squad divisions that flared up Monday were good-natured, a product of large men from different countries needling each other -- and the Canadian contingent on the Moose, in particular -- over what's been happening at the Olympic tournament.

And the one dispute that wasn't tinged with humour -- a mid-practice dust-up between Dusty Collins and Brian Salcido (who, by the way, are both American) that saw the men first exchange words, then shoves and finally some cross-checks -- wasn't all that serious either, upon further review.

"We were just getting the heart rates going," Collins laughed after practice. "We just wanted to get the energy up a bit, that's all. "It's all good."

Which is more than can be said currently about Team Canada -- or the Moose, for that matter.

Both clubs find themselves fighting for their playoff lives right now -- the Canadians playing Germany in an elimination game today in Vancouver, while the Moose jet off this morning for a three-game Texas road swing, clinging to their playoff lives.

The Moose currently hold down the fourth and final playoff spot in the North Division. They are four points ahead of the Lake Erie Monsters, but Lake Erie has two games in hand.

The Moose were a disappointing 2-2 in last week's road swing through Rochester and Toronto and head coach Scott Arniel put his club through an up-tempo practice at Gateway that seemed to have a sense of urgency.

"It's important and imperative that we (do more than) win one, lose one," said Arniel. "We have to get back on some kind of streak where we put a bunch of points together in consecutive games."

The Moose leave this morning for Houston, where they will play the Aeros on Thursday before moving on to San Antonio for games against the Rampage Friday and Saturday.

While the focus on the ice Monday at Gateway was all about their own team, the Moose players conceded afterward that the previous night's U.S. win over Canada was, to put it mildly, a point of discussion on a club that has 14 Canadians and eight Americans.

Quebec's Guillaume Desbiens and Arizona's Dusty Collins even live together, which made for a lively evening in front of the TV Sunday night at their place.

"We watched together at home," recalled Desbiens. "We were chirping at each other. Pretty much the whole game."

Moose goaltender Cory Schneider, a Massachusetts native, said he was reluctant to get too vocal with his Canadian teammates just yet.

"I kept my mouth shut a little bit," Schneider said. "Amongst us Americans, we were celebrating. But I've learned karma is a pretty potent thing, so I don't push my luck."

Which is wise, said Canadian Nolan Baumgartner, who just spent a couple of weeks up in Vancouver with the Canucks, playing hockey on the same ice surface where the Olympics are being played.

"It was a little quieter than expected," Baumgartner said of his American teammates. "That's because they know there are still games left and we might meet them again."

But Baumgartner also had to admit that should the Americans go on to win it all, the repercussions will be felt all the way to his dressing room.

"If they go on to win gold," Baumgartner speculated, "we'll never hear the end of it."

The Russians might yet have a say about that, however. The Moose boast two Russian players -- Nikita Kashirsky and Sergei Shirokov -- and Shirokov has had the best seat in the house the past couple days.

Arniel said Shirokov spent Sunday and Monday in Vancouver as a guest of the Russian hockey federation.

"They'd asked for him to come out there and be a part of those surroundings. It was a nice gesture by the Russian federation," Arniel said.

"So he's out there, he'll be around them a little bit, gaining some insight and experience (being) around some of those guys."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 23, 2010 C6

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