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Winterhawks win first of back-to-back at Kelowna 5-3

KELOWNA, British Columbia — The Portland Winterhawks played well at the start and in the middle Friday and downed the Kelowna Rockets 5-3 in a battle of Western Hockey League Western Conference leaders.

The Hawks led 4-0 through the first 46-plus minutes, then withstood a three-goal Kelowna rally and added an insurance goal into an empty net with 36 seconds remaining.

The teams will meet again, also at Prospera Place, at 7 p.m. Saturday.

Portland is ranked No. 1 in the Canadian Hockey League poll. Kelowna is No. 4.

The win gave the Winterhawks 91 points after 55 of 77 WHL regular-season games and a seven-point lead on Kelowna in the West. Portland, which leads the U.S. Division, is four points better than Edmonton and Prince Albert in the Eastern Conference.

Kelowna, the B.C. Division leader, fell to 40-12-3-1 overall, 24-3-0-0 at home.

Taylor Leier had two goals, and Ty Rattie had two assists for Portland, and Mac Carruth made 29 saves as he raised his season record to 24-4-0-2.

Portland led in shots 34-32 and got on the board after just 2:21 as Leier scored unassissted.

Presten Kopeck gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead at 14:18, and Portland carried that advantage into the second period.

At 5:38 of the middle frame, WHL leading scorer Nicolas Petan notched his 37th goal of the season. Leier scored his 22nd on a power play at 17:31.

Kelowna's surge began with a power--play goal at 6:19 of the third period. The Rockets added goals at 14:01 and 18:42.

Brendan Leipsic found the empty net at 19:24 for his 38th goal of the season, as the Hawks bounced back from a Wednesday home loss to Calgary.

Portland was 1 of 7 on power plays, while Kamloops converted 1 of 3 before the announced crowd of 6,122.