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Winterhawks

Next: Sizzling Portland has back-to-back games this weekend, starting with a marquee match-up at Kamloops, 7 p.m. Friday. Medicine Hat plays at the Rose Garden at 7 the next night. The Hawks then return to the ice on Wednesday, facing Vancouver at the Rose Garden at 7 p.m.

Portland’s win streak hit 12 with the 3-1 victory Sunday at home over fellow Western Hockey League power Kamloops.

The Blazers still have a 35-33 points lead on the Hawks, but Kamloops has played three more games than Portland.

Twelve games is one-sixth of the regular season.

The Winterhawks’ streak is the talk of the WHL and the longest active string in the 60-team Canadian Hockey League. But Portland coach-general manager Mike Johnston says he doesn’t refer to it around his players.

“We never talk about streaks or anything like that,” Johnston says. “Every game is a different challenge. You look at what sort of scenario you’re facing, what you’re going to have to do in the next game.”

Not surprisingly, the Winterhawks have surged to the league lead in various categories.

Some of the stats are astounding.

One that stands out is goal differential — Portland’s plus-51 is 18 better than Kamloops, which is second in the category.

“We’re keeping our shots against and goals against down, and our penalty kill has been good,” Johnston says. “In the past, I don’t think we were as good in those areas.”

Third periods have been another area of strength most of the time for the Winterhawks.

Remarkably, in 20 games this season, the Hawks have matched or outscored their opponents 19 times in the third period. And the only exception came in game 20 versus Kamloops, when Portland had a 3-0 lead going into the final frame and was outscored 1-0 over the closing 20 minutes.

Overall, the Winterhawks have scored 30 goals in the third period, while allowing 10.

“We haven’t given up a lot of chances or goals,” Johnston says. “We’ve been really solid defensively in the third period, especially when we have a lead. It starts with our goaltenders and our defense. We don’t spend a lot of time in our zone. They move the puck quickly to our forwards.”

Johnston says the Hawks don’t try to slow the pace or get conservative when they have a lead in the third period.

“We play the same way,” he says. “We don’t ever sit back. It makes it hard on teams to try to come back when you’re moving the puck.”

The shooting stats are just as striking.

Portland has outshot its opponents in 19 of 20 games. Spokane outshot the Hawks 44-36 in Portland’s game 19 last week — but Portland won 9-1 at Spokane.

The Winterhawks are averaging 41.5 shots per game. The other teams are averaging 26.4.

n Portland goaltender Mac Carruth is on a tear himself. He’s 9-0 and leads the WHL in save percentage (.963) and goals against average (0.97).

“He is very calm in the net,” Johnston says. “He’s controlled in his movements. He has always moved the puck well. He’s just been very consistent in his play.”