Camp McPhee: The Story of Lt. Christopher Mosko

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Lt. Mosko at war. (Photo: US Navy)

Lt. Mosko at war. (Photo: US Navy)

Lt. Mosko and his wife Amanda in Hawaii in 2010. (Photo via NY Times)

On April 26, 2012, Lt. Christopher E. Mosko, a Naval explosive ordnance disposal technician, was killed along with two fellow servicemen when they hit a roadside bomb heading into a village. He was 28-years-old.

Lt. Mosko was stationed at a remote 30-man outpost in Zabul province called Camp McPhee. He had been in the military since 2007, joining after getting a degree in finance and engineering at Drexel. He left behind a wife, Amanda. The couple married in 2009 after meeting in R.O.T.C. They both ended up in the Navy. After his death, Lt. Mosko was awarded a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.

Two years later, Americans have left Camp McPhee. Our involvement in Afghanistan is coming to a close, and Afghans are in the process of electing a new president. While there will likely be an American presence in the country after this year to train Afghan forces, the majority of the troops have already come home. Twelve years after special operations troops chased Osama Bin Laden through the mountains of Tora Bora, the war is winding down with uncertainty and 2,316 American fatalities, including Lt. Mosko.

A few days ago, on a sunny Friday afternoon, I met one of Lt. Mosko’s friends. They grew up together, attending the same high school in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Years later, coincidentally, they found themselves in the same dusty collection of buildings in Central Asia.

“It’s kinda like the Wild West where we were,” the friend said. “It was just on an island out there. Us versus them.”

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Photo: Alex Brandon

With 42 seconds left in the Capitals’ 4-0 win over Chicago, Jay Beagle skated to the bench looking for a change. He had been on the ice for three shifts in the last four minutes. His teammates, however, were adamant that he stay on the ice. But finally, after Beagle crawled over the bench wall, Eric Fehr stepped on for the final shift.

“I felt bad for him because I knew how tired he was,” Fehr told me. “I could see it in his eyes. He doesn’t get that look very often. He was begging to come off. I took a second and evaluated it and figured I better go.”

Said Beagle of his reaction: “I said “’I’m not! I’m not staying on. I can’t even move my legs anymore!”

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Photo: @bwillgress

The last three Washington Capitals game broadcasts have been different. They’ve been missing the finely dressed Joe Beninati, who has been the team’s play-by-play man for HTS/CSN Washington since 1994.

Beninati was last seen on television on Friday, when he was covering the NCAA Hockey Midwest Regional for ESPNU in Cincinnati, Ohio.

“We had two semifinal games [to call on] Friday,” Beninati told me by email. “On Friday afternoon before the games began, I felt like my voice was weakening with laryngitis. I called both games and by the time I finished those six hours on air, my voice was shot.”

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The Achilles Heel of the Capitals Power Play

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Photo: Patrick Smith

The Caps are bad at defense and give up a lot of odd-man breaks. Even when they win, Washington can’t hide that flaw. One aspect of that is particularly troubling: the amount of rushes they allow on their own power play.

The Capitals man-advantage has kept them afloat all year, generating about a third of their offense. However, against the Stars their PP could barely get going. Dallas had two breakaways on Washington’s opening power play, which was quickly negated by a John Carlson slash.

“Usually odd-man rushes are our breakdowns, not necessarily great plays by them,” Carlson said after the game. “We can’t let that happen. We’re too good of players.”

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Photo: Rob Carr

For 10 years, Jarome Iginla was the captain of the Calgary Flames. He was the franchise, in the same way Alex Ovechkin is now synonymous with the Washington Capitals. But in Iginla’s last few years with the team, the Flames got bad. Wanting to win a Cup before his career was over, Iginla engineered a trade to the Pittsburgh Penguins last year, spurring the Boston Bruins at the last second. The closest Iginla had ever come was a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2004.

Ironically, the Bruins headed to the Final against the Blackhawks last season, with another year ticking off on Iginla’s career. He signed a one-year, $6 million contract with the Bruins this offseason. At 36, Iginla is on the top team in the east. The Bruins clinched the Atlantic Division by beating Washington on Saturday afternoon.

“It’s been a fun year,” Iginla told reporters after the game. “It’s been fun to win games and battling at the top of the league, to be on some streaks as a group and see them go in too. It’s been fun.”

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Photo: Chris Gordon

The Washington Capitals spent about 20 minutes Thursday morning posing for pictures with cute animals, both domestic and wild, and then proceeded to a grueling practice session featuring something that looked suspiciously like a bag skate.

After almost an hour and a half on the ice, the players started trickling in to the locker room. Some of the guys, though, stayed on the ice a bit longer, including Dmitry Orlov, Mikhail Grabovski, and the latest addition to the Capitals roster, Evgeny Kuznetsov. The Russian-speaking troika remained on the ice, enjoying a game of King of the Hill on the center circle.

Finally, the Russian rookie and his buddies made their way to their locker room stalls, where he patiently answered RMNB’s questions until no stone was left unturned in the first chapter of what hopefully will be Kuzya’s long tenure in a red jersey with #92 on the back.

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Photo: Bob DeChiara

When we last caught up with Connor Carrick, the diminutive first-year pro was oozing confidence after a successful 2012-13 campaign with the Plymouth Whalers. Carrick, an intelligent and motivated student of the game, continued to play out of his mind during Caps’ training camp in the fall and unexpectedly made the team as a 19-year-old.

Since then, Carrick, who scored his first NHL goal on a breakaway in his second NHL game (and also got pied), has been challenged in every way. Three games into his NHL career, Carrick dealt with the disappointment of being sent down to the American Hockey League. A few months later, he left the Bears and flew to Sweden to be a leader on Team USA’s World Junior Championship team. That’s three different coaches in three months for a teenage defenseman.

Once he returned to the states, Carrick was recalled to Washington to play 27 games for the Capitals through March. During that time, Carrick was paired with veteran John Erskine (who has been injured much of the year) on the third pairing. They struggled together and at times, Carrick looked overmatched. Though his footwork, fundamentals, and decision-making improved during that time, Carrick has felt the pressure of not succeeding and producing immediately.

On Saturday, after Caps practice ended, I caught up with Carrick in the locker room and asked him about his season so far. He seemed to have a lot of things on his mind, knowing he was not playing his game but remaining optimistic and realistic for the future.

“The biggest thing in success is not just being in the lineup,” a determined Carrick said to me. “Making the team is one thing, making the team better is another, and that’s kind of that next step. I’m hoping to take it as soon as possible.”

Here is the full transcript of our chat.

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The Washington Capitals have gotten a little more silly this season, and that’s right up our alley. Sure, they’re still all business on the ice and they still give straight-laced interviews– sometimes, but there’s also been a strong undercurrent of zaniness.  We love it.

Ovi did penalty push-ups, Ovi played soccer at Six Flags, Ovi entered a contest to win himself. (Lots of Ovi in this list…) Tom Wilson fought a child– which wasn’t as bad as it sounds, Nate Schmidt weirded out everyone with his word salad, and then the team’s backup goalie doing multitasking. It’s been a busy season for nonsense.

Whatever you think of the team’s on-ice product, at least we’ve been thoroughly entertained. And at the heart of all that fun has been Troy Brouwer. He made a mess of a goal celebration in the preseason, celebrated his 100th goal in style, and got a mustachioed bobblehead. But his main gag, if you ask me, has been Brouwerbombing.

Brouwerbomb (noun) — the act of sabotaging an interview by grinning like a goon in the background. Popularized by Capitals 20-goal scorer Troy d’Artagnan Brouwer.

On Saturday I had the chance to ask Brouwer– who had at that point not yet scored his 20th goal– about his antics. He had surprisingly deep thoughts about it all.

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Photo: Rob Carr

It’s been just over a week since the Washington Capitals traded Michal Neuvirth to Buffalo for Jaroslav Halak. Halak, a veteran of eight NHL seasons, is already the Caps de facto starter, sporting an above average .924 save percentage and leading the Caps to three wins in five starts.

While Halak’s play has been calming on the ice, the gear he’s been wearing has been anything but. He looks like a man without a country. Unlike Neuvirth, who has been wearing his Caps-colored mask with Buffalo, Halak has opted to wear one plainest goalie masks ever seen in the NHL. His bucket, painted a bright pearly white, has only one design feature: red painted bars covering his face.

On Saturday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex, I spoke with the Slovakian netminder about his unusual gear and if or when we’ll ever see him with a Caps mask.

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Photo: Paul Frederiksen

Brouwer celebrates his first goal (Photo: Paul Frederiksen)

Brouwer celebrates his first goal (Photo: Paul Frederiksen)

Coming soon to warmups near you: Ian Oland in spandex. With an empty-net goal against Toronto Sunday, Troy Brouwer netted his 20th goal of the season. Ian had a bet with the Brouwer Rangers that if Troy scored 20 this year, he would go to a game with Nathan and Ryan dressed in a red unitard. Time to buy a fanny pack.

“I’m excited!” Brouwer told me of Ian’s future gear.

Brouwer’s goal was made possible by a kind turn from Nicklas Backstrom. After Brouwer banked the puck off the boards from the defensive zone, Nicky followed the puck towards the net. The Swedish center neglected to touch the puck, allowing Brouwer to hit the milestone.

“That’s the most unselfish thing I’ve ever seen in hockey,” Brouwer said.

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