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Winterhawks build lead, then win at Tri-City

KENNEWICK, Wash. -- The Portland Winterhawks continue to survive, and even thrive, in the typically short-handed holiday part of the Western Hockey League season.

Minus six players -- five competing for a spot in the world junior championship or preparing to play in the tournament in Russia -- the Hawks held on Friday night for their seventh win in a row, a 4-3 victory at Tri-City.

The Americans outshot Portland 46-38, but the Winterhawks never trailed, and No. 2 goaltender Brendan Burke made 43 saves to raise his season record to 11-3-1-0.

Portland improved to 30-5-1-0, while Tri-City slipped to 20-13-1-2.

The teams will meet again Saturday at 3 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum.

Portland got first-period goals Friday from Taylor Peters and Kirill Vorobev.

In the second period, Taylor Leier gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead and Oliver Bjorkstrand made the score 4-1.

Tri-City cut into the margin with a goal with 57 seconds left in the second period and scored the game's final goal with 3:12 remaining, both on power plays.

Peters and Bjorkstrand had power-play goals, as well.

Portland played without three defenseman -- injured Derrick Pouliot and world juniors competitors Tyler Wotherspoon and Seth Jones -- and three forwards, all in the world juniors mix, Ty Rattie, Keegan Iverson and Dominic Turgeon.

Portland's 61 points through 36 games -- the halfway point on the WHL regular season -- is the league high. Kamloops, which leads the B.C. Division in the Western Conference, has 54 points in 39 games, while Kelowna is second in the B.C. with 52 points in 37 games. Spokane is second behind Portland in the West's U.S. Division, with 49 points in 35 games. Tri-City is third with its 43 points in 36 games.