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Conor Geekie's dream of winning a gold medal while playing with Team Canada has ended.

Geekie and the rest of the Canadian squad were eliminated from the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships on Tuesday afternoon following a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Team Czechia.

A very slow start for Canada on Tuesday saw them fall 2-0 after 20 minutes. The Canadians would respond in the second with a pair of goals to tie the game. On the team's second goal, scored by Jake Furlong, Geekie provided a great net-front presence.

Canada sustained great offensive pressure in the third, but they could not find the back of the net while Jakub Stancl scored with just 11 seconds left to seal it. It was the first time since 2019 that Canada failed to medal at the event, hosted this year in Sweden. Ottawa will play host to the 2024 event. 

Conor, of Strathclair, finished the tournament with two goals and one assist. He will now head back to Wenatchee to continue his season in the Western Hockey League, one that has been outstanding for the Arizona Coyotes first-round draft pick. He has 20 goals and 29 assists in just 26 games. 

They have yet to compete together in a U-18 Provincial Championship; however, that is about to change.

Tessa Terrick is making her way to the Selkirk Curling Club for the provincial event slated to begin on Wednesday morning. Terrick is playing lead on Team Cassidy Dundas of Onanole. Joining the foursome are Eryn Czirfusz and Lauren Evason. 

The team begins their five-game round-robin on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. against Team Leadbeater. The top two teams from each pool of six will make the page playoffs with the gold medal game set for Sunday afternoon.

Entering the 12-team tournament as one of the favourites, Terrick understands nothing will be given, the team must earn everything.

"We're feeling pretty good," said Terrick. "The competition is going to be very tough, so we have to play very well."

While this team just came together this year, they have had an impressive season to date. They are right near the top of the standings in league play and they won a U18 tournament at the Heather Curling Club last month, so it's safe to say that chemistry is not an issue.

"We all mesh together very well and we're extremely familiar with each other now," offered Terrick.

Tessa has competed in provincial events before -- including winning the Telus U21 provincials last year -- and while this will not be a new experience for the McCreary native, competing in a provincial bonspiel truly never does get old.

"It still feels good to be able to get on the ice and have a chance to represent our province," said Terrick. "Provincial tournaments are always special, great to be a part of."

Up for grabs this week is a berth to the national championships which will take place from February 4 to 10 at the RA Centre and Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club in the nation's capital. 

Tessa won a national bronze medal last year alongside her sisters Zoey, Jaycee, and Jensen Letham. This year, she isn't looking too far ahead and she's only focused on taking things end by end as Team Dundas prepares to open their provincial journey.

"I'm just thinking of this week as another bonspiel, I'm not focused on a national tournament, I am in the now," ended Terrick. "I'll go out there and play my best and we will see what happens."

Scoring twice and winning 6-1. That's usually a combination that calls for a celebration and two honks from the bus on the way home.

While two honks happened and a celebration occurred for most of the team, Josh Thompson was just wondering how long he would be out of the lineup. After scoring two goals in a 6-1 win against the Storm on October 15, Thompson broke his hand and it was an injury that sidelined the Russell star for nearly two months.

Frustrated that he couldn't be on the ice helping his team win, the Beavers did their best without Josh, but they dropped the following two games after his injury. The team (Blind River Beavers) would turn things around as they won 10 of their next 12 games without Josh and that led the team to welcome back one of their stars. 

As the calendar flipped to December, Thompson was elated to find out he could return to the lineup and he did so in the team's 4-1 dominating victory over the Eagles on December 8. This time, Thompson wasn't thinking about how long he would be out with an injury, he was thinking about how great it felt to be back on the ice with his teammates and how great it felt to win a game.

"It felt great, I was super anxious to play, it was a pretty unfortunate situation not playing," said Thompson. "I was glad that the boys kept winning and I couldn't wait to get back so I could help them rack up some more wins."

Back for his second season with the Beavers, a member of the 12-team Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League circuit, Thompson and the rest of the team are just one point behind the Greater Sudbury Cubs for first place in the West Division. With 27 wins in their first 35 games, the Beavers have the best plus/minus differential in the league at +81 and they finished the 2023 portion of their schedule with 13 straight wins.

"We have a great group of guys this year, it's honestly like one big family," said Thompson. "We pack the barn pretty well, when we score everyone gets fired up. I'm in a great spot here, I'm enjoying myself."

Thompson posted 23 goals and 28 assists last year in 56 games played. This year, Josh is back to doing what he does best and that's produce offensively. The former Parkland Ranger enters the Christmas break with 11 goals and 26 points. What makes his total that much more impressive is the fact that he missed nearly two months of game action. Thompson sits seventh in the team scoring and his five powerplay goals are the second-most on the team.

"I think I have taken the next step compared to last year, I'm more of a leader this year," offered Thompson. "I'm just trying to get a ring at the end of the year and that's everyone's goal on our team. I believe we have a great squad this year, we're trying to go all the way."

Last year, Blind River won 42 of their 58 regular season games and finished second in their division. With championship goals, they were shocked when they lost in the first round in just five games. With that heartbreak now in the past and experience gained, Thompson isn't ready for that to happen again.

"We have a lot of returning guys from last year so I think we all know what it takes," said Thompson. "We can't let the other teams control us, we know how strong we can play. We just have to continue to force the issue and make it very hard for other teams to play against us. No one wants to feel what we felt again."

Now back home for the Christmas break, Blind River will return to game action on January 5 when they head to the Massey & District Arena to play the Vikings. 

Brotherly Love:

While Josh is enjoying all-star success in Blind River, his brother, Ryder is enjoying a great season in the Western Hockey League with the Portland Winterhawks. With an NHL camp already under his belt, Ryder has become one of Portland's top defenders and has posted 12 points from the back end this year.

Sitting at 20-10-1-1 at the Christmas break, the Winterhawks are in fourth place in the Western Conference and only six points back of Prince George for first. 

While he lives out his dream of playing junior hockey with a goal to win a league championship in the NOJHL, Josh is closely watching how his brother is doing while Ryder lives out his dream of playing Major Junior.

"I had the chance to watch him play a game while I was injured and it was special," ended Josh. "I'm so happy for him. I love him a lot and I hope everything works out for him, I cheer him on every day."

The Christmas break arrived a little earlier than scheduled for the Parkland U18 Rangers.

Parkland was scheduled to play Yellowhead last Tuesday, December 18; however, the game was postponed due to an illness affecting several members of the Rangers team. Now a week removed from that postponement, the Rangers are reflecting on the first half it was, and to many, the team exceeded expectations.

The team finished the first half of the season at 9-11-2 which has them just a single point back of Eastman for the eighth and final playoff spot and the Rangers are just two points back of Pembina Valley for seventh and five back of the Thrashers for sixth. The Rangers won five of their last nine games before the break.

Tyler Carefoot is the team's head coach and he's proud of how the team came out and battled every night.

"It's a different vibe than past seasons, this is a group that gets along well together," said Carefoot. "When we have focused on the little things, we have found success. I think overall, we have to be pleased with how the season has gone so far."

Hayden Seib has led the offensive output for the Rangers thus far with eight goals and 16 assists while Cash Clarkson and his 23 points are just behind and Cade Legaarden is third in team scoring with 11 goals and as many assists. The Rangers have six other players who have recorded at least 10 points in Tavyn Boychuk (15), Ethan McMullan (15), Maddox Shindle (14), Sam Swanton (14), Cam Sarna (10), and Quinten Fisk (10). 

In net, Chase Glover has shown signs of brilliance at times. With eight wins to his name this year, Glover provides Parkland with a chance to win every single time he's between the pipes. He has a 3.72 goals-against average to go along with a .899 save percentage. 

"I've always liked Chase's demeanor, he never gets too high and he never gets too low," offered Carefoot. "He's a guy that we rely on and we're a confident group when he is net, he has been the backbone of our club."

While scoring goals has been hard to come by at points, Parkland has been excellent on the man advantage. The Rangers have 28 powerplay goals as they rank third in the league at 24.8%. With 77 goals this year, more than 25% of the team's goals have come while up a man. On the penalty kill; meanwhile, Parkland is 78.2%. 

If Parkland hopes to leap the standings early in the New Year, they will have to tame the top teams in the league. The club opens up 2024 on the road in Brandon against the Wheat Kings. Brandon has not lost in regulation this year, winning 21 of their 22 games. The Rangers then play a weekend home-and-home with the Southwest Cougars, a team that has lost just five times, winning 18 of their first 23 contests. Parkland then plays the third-place Lightning, the fifth-place Wild, and then another home-and-home with Southwest.

It's a daunting schedule without a doubt, but the U18 Rangers have proven in the past that they can play with and beat some of the top teams in the league. If they can do so in January, Parkland will be in a good spot and will keep their chances alive of advancing to the playoffs in the 12-team circuit with eight teams qualifying for playoff play. 

Alumni News:

Bo Eisner is in his rookie season with the Melfort Mustangs and it's going very well. He has played 24 games, scoring one goal and amassing five points. The Mustangs are one of the top teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) with a record of 22-9-3, good enough for a tie for second.

Bo served as Parkland's captain last year and Tyler is not surprised that the former Ranger and Swan River native is enjoying great success at the next level.

"Bo is a low-maintenance guy that comes to the rink to execute to the best of his abilities," said Carefoot. "He has gotten better every quarter of each season for the past few years and he is very well deserving of being where he is."

Bo played 102 games with the U18 program, scoring 16 goals and adding 47 assists. The Swan River native is just another case of play in the Parkland and move onto bigger and better things. 

They are the class of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) and at this point in the season, they are also the class of the 122-team Canadian Junior Hockey League. 

As the SJHL has entered its Christmas break, the Flin Flon Bombers have been able to achieve historic things 31 games into the 2023-24 campaign. Ending their pre-Christmas schedule with 15 wins over their final 16 games, Flin Flon has won 28 of their 31 games this season.

The Bombers have an 11-point lead over both Battlefords and Melfort for first place overall in the league. To note, the SJHL uses the 1vs8, 2vs7, 3vs6, and 4vs5 format for the Canterra Seeds Cup playoffs.

The Bombers scored eight goals in their final two games of 2023 against La Ronge and gave up just a single. The North Stars, currently in second place in the league, won 48 regular season games last year and finished 18 points higher than Humboldt.

They went on to beat Flin Flon in the finals to win a league title. For comparison between the two teams, Battlefords won 16 straight games from November 12 to January 13 last year. This year, Flin Flon ended 2023 with nine straight wins and 15 over their last 16. 

Rob Hart is the team's broadcaster and he has been very impressed with how things have gone.

"I have never seen anything like this, this team has both blown teams out of the waters and they have won close games as well," said Hart. "The team's top-end guys have been great and they continue to find ways to win games."

On their nine-game streak that will move into 2024, the Bombers' closest margin of victory was one goal as they shut out La Ronge, 1-0, on December 6. They have a pair of two-goal wins and other than that, the Maroon & White have won each game by at least three goals.

Their biggest margin of victory over the past five games, which has come on five different occasions, has been four goals. 

Flin Flon has five of the top seven scorers in the league, led by hometown star Justin Lies. After producing 25 goals and 35 assists across 203 games in the Western Hockey League, Justin has returned to his hometown and he's on a tear with 51 points in just 30 games.

He is tied for the league lead right now with Kian Bell, who has amassed that total in just 19 games. Alexi Sylvestre (49), Jacob Vockler (45), Noah Houle (42), and Carter Anderson (37) are the main offensive producers for the Bombers. Seven players are averaging more than a point per game while another three are averaging just less. 

Lies also leads the league with six-game-winning goals while Anderson has been in a league of his own with 15 power-play goals, six more than Ryan Duguay, Spencer Bell, and Cage Newans for the league lead. 

"You can't argue that our top guys haven't produced, they continue to find ways to put the puck in the back of the net and what impresses me is how often they are getting it done," said Hart. "Another thing that impresses me is the team's depth, we have nine other players with 11 points apiece, so there are a lot of guys on this team that can produce."

Flin Flon opens 2024 on home ice on January 5 when they welcome the 15-15-0-2 Nipawin Hawks to the Whitney Forum before heading on the road the following night to play the 22-9-3 Melfort Mustangs.

Melfort is 11 points behind the Bombers for first in the Sherwood Division and league, respectively. The Bombers then welcome Nipawin to Flin Flon once again on January 12 before the Terriers play a pair of games at the Whitney the following weekend and then, a heavyweight weekend set is on tap. In a rematch of the 2023 SJHL Final, the North Stars will be on home ice for a pair of games against Flin Flon on January 26 and 27. 

While it has been smooth sailing so far for the Bombers, Hart knows things get tougher as the season goes on, especially after January 10 when the top teams in the league stock up. At this point, one would think that the Bombers will also add some pieces as they look to win a championship.

"Flin Flon hasn't played North Battleford yet and we have to play them four times in the second half," said Hart. "We also have not gone into Humboldt nor Melfort yet. There are also a few lengthy road trips on tap as well, which are always a challenge. Nothing is given in this league and teams will improve, so no game can be taken lightly."

Flin Flon has come oh so close to SJHL glory several times over the past decade; however, they have never been able to get over the hump. The team has advanced to the league final in four of the last six seasons before being defeated in all of them. The team's last championship was in 1993. 

If you have never been to Flin Flon during hockey season, the community is all hockey and the Whitney Forum is one of the best atmospheres in junior hockey.

"People are pretty excited and everyone is hoping that they can get the monkey off their back," ended Hart. "No titles are handed out in December, but it does appear that the team will have another chance to win a title this year. We will see what happens moving ahead."

SJHL Tips:

  • Former Parkland Ranger captain Bo Eisner is in his first year with Melfort. Across 24 games, the rookie has one goal and five points;
  • Flin Flon has the top two goalies when it comes to goals-against average with Harmon Laser-Hume (1.95 GAA) and Kenneth Marquart (1.99 GAA);
  • Kian Bell won the league's scoring race last year with 102 points. He started this year in the WHL with the Edmonton Oil Kings where he scored one goal and since returning to Battlefords, he has 51 points in just 19 games; and
  • Notre Dame is in last place in the league with just eight wins and 17 points across 32 games.

The Dauphin Kings opened their season by winning 13 of their first 15 games.

As a result, they were ranked inside the Top 20 in the Canadian Junior Hockey League rankings. The team was scoring, Cole Sheffield was nearly unbeatable between the pipes and all was going very well for the Kings.

They beat the Virden Oil Capitals two games in a row, they beat the Winkler Flyers at the MJHL Showcase when they came back from two goals down. They came from behind to beat the Terriers at Stride Place.

At one point in time, it was very apparent that Dauphin would not only contend for the West Division crown, but the Kings would keep pace with the likes of Steinbach and Winkler for first place overall in the league. While all of this is still a possibility for the Kings, they will have to flip the script rather dramatically to start the 2024 portion of their schedule.

Dauphin dropped 10 of their final 13 games before the Christmas break, going 3-9-1 in the final month before Christmas. Something that held the Kings back was their special teams.

While the team was 81% on the penalty kill over the last month, Dauphin went just 7-for-61 on the power play. They were just 4-for-53 before scoring three man-advantage goals in a 7-4 loss to the Winkler Flyers in their final game of 2023. 

Throughout their tough stretch, Dauphin scored more than three goals just twice and one of the times resulted in a defeat. 

Offensive Woes:

Gabriel Bugeaud, one of the team's top rookies, came out of the gate on fire with 12 points in his first 14 games. Gabriel now has just three assists in his last 16 games. While he isn't expected to rack up points as he was early in the campaign, Bugeaud will need to take the next step from his play as of late and if he can, Dauphin will be in a very good spot.

Logan Walker has 14 goals and 21 points this season. Seven of those goals came in his first 13 games of the season. While he did finish somewhat strong offensively with three goals in his final five games, his point production has dropped as of late. Walker has just three points in his last 10 games. A workhorse and one of the team's most valuable players, Walker is poised to come back from the break and get back to what makes him successful and that's winning battles and going hard to the net.

Jordan Bax, has, for the most part, put together an excellent rookie season. With 23 points, he has been a regular on the scoresheet but just like Bugeaud and Walker, the Parkhill native struggled to end 2023. Bax Jr. had zero points in his final four games and just one in his final six of 2023. Bax also had some very bad puck luck which didn't help his cause. Another player with an incredible work ethic, big things are expected from the rookie in the second half. 

Cole Sheffield won his first 11 starts of the season and he was nearly unbeatable. As of late, that hasn't been the case. Sheffield has just two wins in his last 10 starts. His save percentage over his last 10 games is .884, he has given up at least four goals on four separate occasions, and his save percentage has been .848 or less in four starts. 

Bright Side:

This same team that has struggled heavily over the last month is the same team that won 13 of their first 15 games. Doug Hedley is slated to return to the team's bench on January 7 when the Selkirk Steelers pay a visit to Credit Union Place. His final game of a 10-game suspension will be the team's first contest of 2024 when the Freeze comes to town on January 5. 

Dauphin enters 2024 in third place in the highly competitive MGEU West Division, nine points back of the Blizzard for second and 13 points back of the Oil Capitals for first. Dauphin has beaten the Blizzard in both of their meetings while their season series with Virden is tied at two games apiece.

Upcoming Schedule:

Following a pair of games against East Division opponents (Freeze & Selkirk), Dauphin heads to Neepawa on Tuesday, January 9 to play the Titans, who are just two points back of Dauphin. The Kings then host Portage before heading up north to play the Blizzard.

Games the remainder of the month see Dauphin going up against the Stampeders twice, Virden, and Niverville. There's no question that no game is easy to win in this league, but the Kings can not afford to come out of the break and continue losing.

The CJHL Trade Deadline (January 10) is also right around the corner and that begs the question, does Doug Hedley have anything up his sleeve? The last time the Kings faced a large suspension, they won the MJHL Championship. Two seasons ago, Klim Georgiev -- who is now playing university hockey in Ontario -- was suspended for 16 games, and the Kings beat Steinbach in the final. This year, Hedley is nearly done with his 10-game suspension. 

2024 Prediction:

The Kings will turn things around when the calendar flips over to January. There is too much skill on this year's team and if Doug Hedley adds to the roster before the deadline, perhaps Dauphin can go on another run like they did two years ago. 

Darnell Duff will be joined by Jeff Henson for the broadcast against the Freeze on January 5, the pregame show hits the airwaves at 7:15. 

It's set to be a battle between the best in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League against the best in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

The Seven Oaks Sportsplex in Winnipeg will once again play host the MJ/SJ Showcase which takes place from January 30 to 31. The Showcase will feature three all-star teams from each league with 60 players from each league taking part.

Each league will dress two 20U teams and each league will dress a lone 18U team each. Ahead of the highly anticipated event, the MJHL has announced the coaching staffs for each team.

20U Red:
Head Coach - Justin Falk (Winkler Flyers)
Assistant Coach - Robby Moar (Neepawa Titans)
Assistant Coach - Alex Mandolidis (Winnipeg Blues)

20U Black:
Head Coach - Paul Dyck (Steinbach Pistons)
Assistant Coach - Barry Wolff (Swan Valley)
Assistant Coach - Taylor Harnett (Waywayseecappo)

18U White:
Head Coach - Eric Labrosse (OCN Blizzard)
Assistant Coach - Jay Pylypuik (Winnipeg Freeze)
Assistant Coach - Zak Hicks (Neepawa Titans) 

The Dauphin Clippers couldn't hold onto a two-goal lead as they lost this year's edition of the Christmas Classic against Neepawa.

Leading 2-0 in Neepawa, Dauphin gave up two unanswered goals and lost 3-2 in a shootout. 

Liam Chartrand and Julien Lopez scored for Dauphin in the defeat. 

Dauphin now enters the Christmas break with wins in 12 of their 16 games.

He loves getting the chance to be at the rink with his teammates. 

They have become more than just teammates. They have become family and Brayden Budolowski wouldn't have it any other way. The 14-year-old from Dauphin is in his second year with the Parkland U15 Rangers. Budolowski posted five goals and six assists across 29 regular season games with the team last year before suiting up in five playoff games.

"I don't get to see the guys all the time because we're all from different areas," said Budolowski. "So it's great when I see them at the rink, whether for a practice or a game. We have a great group this year and I love being a Ranger."

On the ice, Budolowski has taken his game to the next level this year. With an increased workload, Budolowski is nearly averaging a goal per game with 17 goals in 18 games. Brayden has paired his 17 goals with 14 assists for 31 points as he leads the Rangers' offensive force this season. Playing in a league that features the Top U15 players in the province, Budolowski is tied for 19th in league scoring. 

Brayden pairs his smooth skating ability with a great release which has allowed him to produce at an elite level.

"I just try to rack up as many shots as possible," said Budolowski. "If I'm not shooting, I'm trying to set up other teammates and they have done a great job finishing plays off. It's not all about points when it comes down to it, but I'm happy with how I have been able to produce this season."

While he is pleased with his production, the 14-year-old sniper believes he has much more to offer.

"I think I have a lot more in the tank, I've had quite a few missed opportunities," offered Budolowski. "I can't complain with 31 points in 18 games, but I think there's a lot more that I can bring to the table."

The Rangers have been playing very good hockey as of late with five wins in their last seven games. They can make it six wins in their last eight if they can get the job done on Saturday when they head to the BDO Arena in Portage to play the Central Plains Capitals. Parkland has downed the Capitals already this season and Saturday's game marks their final before the Christmas break. 

"We just have to continue clawing our way back after the slow start," said Budolowski. "Everyone is motivated and we have a great coaching staff that continues to push us every single day."

Heading into the New Year, Brayden has a couple of goals in mind. He would like to put up two points a game and his biggest goal is helping Parkland leap up the standings and if they continue to push as they have been as of late, there is no reason that they can't. 

The Dauphin Kings have added a local star to their roster.

After playing 83 games with the Everett Silvertips, Kyan Grouette will begin 2024 as a Dauphin King.

The Silvertips reassigned the 18-year-old Dauphinite, who had five goals with Everett during his WHL tenure, including one this year in 18 games. Grouette will make his debut with Dauphin on January 5 when the Winnipeg Freeze are in town. 

For the most part, it's been smooth sailing for the Dauphin Clippers hockey team this season.

With wins in 12 of their first 15 league games, Dauphin currently sits in second place in the Westman High School Hockey League, just a point behind the Vincent Massey Vikings who beat Neepawa on Wednesday night and have 13 wins in their first 15.

The Clippers opened their season with a bang winning the Glenboro tournament and they have not looked back whatsoever. With a pair of games before the Christmas break on tap for the club, Jason Alf is pleased with where the team is at in the standings, but he knows there is room for improvement. 

"We still have problems at times with our slow starts, it's something we need to work on," said Alf. "With that said, we're finding a way to win hockey games and everyone seems to be buying in. It's not easy to win 12 of your first 15 games and we have done that, so it's about polishing things up and moving ahead."

Tyron Sweetman has led the way offensively for Dauphin this season, scoring 10 goals while also adding 10 assists. Sweetman also has one shorthanded goal in his third year with the club.

"He's one of those guys that has been providing that consistent effort night in and night out," said Alf. "His offence has been developing over the past few years which is huge. He has scored some very timely goals for us as well, so we're very pleased with his efforts this year."

While Sweetman is leading the way with 20 points, William Miner and Ronin Mouck are just behind as the pair have recorded 17 points apiece with Miner scoring nine goals and Mouck lit the lamp 12 times. Norman Lacquette has also been a regular contributor with 15 points while Sully Fox has added up 13 as the Christmas break approaches.

In the net, it has been the Owen Chubka. The grade 12 veteran has won eight of his 11 starts. He has paired a fantastic 2.22 goals-against average with a stingy .931 save percentage. Of goalies that have played a minimum of 11 games, Chubka has the second-best save percentage, only behind Sawyer Wallin of Vincent Massey. 

Alf has been very impressed with the play of Owen. 

"We are very happy that he is still with us this year. He has been working very hard, he puts a lot of pressure on himself to be the number one guy," said Chubka. "He's a great teammate, he has been great with Joe as well, helping him while he finds his way."

Tabin has won three of his four starts. Dauphin is on the road for their 'Christmas Classic' against Neepawa on Friday afternoon at 1:00 before returning to Dauphin to host Birtle on Saturday evening at 7:30. Following Saturday's game, Dauphin will get a two-week break from game action with their first game after Christmas coming on January 5. 

Then on February 14, the Clippers will be heading to Las Vegas for a tournament. 

"It's something that we have been talking about all year," ended Alf. "It will be nice to get down there and get away from the cold for a bit. It will be a great bonding session heading into the playoffs, everyone on the team is pretty excited about it. With that said, everyone is focusing on the task at hand and that's winning our league games."