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Dumba, defense spark Winterhawks' win streak

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Mathew Dumba winds up for a shot in the Portland Winterhawks' Monday night home victory against the Vancouver Giants.Football fan Mike Johnston didn't get to see much of Sunday's Seattle-San Francisco NFC championship game/NFL rivalry rubber match.

That's because Portland Winterhawks coach/general manager Mike Johnston was busy guiding his team to a victory at home over division rival Spokane.

The puck dropped at Memorial Coliseum about the same time the Seahawks and 49ers kicked off at CenturyLink Field.

In the end Sunday at Seattle, the Seahawks won the way they often do, with their defense.

And that's how Johnston sees the Winterhawks having to do it, if they want to go as far as those other, Super Bowl-bound Hawks have gone.

"Our goals-against average has steadily gone down," Johnston says, of his club's recent play, "and the number of chances and shots we're allowing has been a little better. But that's got to be our focus."

The Winterhawks, however, also like to get up the ice quickly and take their shots — resembling, in a way, the passing attack of the Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos, who will face the Seahawks on Feb. 2 for the NFL title.

Johnston likes how "Seattle has the ability to defend," but he agrees that the perfect combination for his Portland hockey squad might be a Seahawks-like defense and a Broncos-like approach and Denver productivity on offense.

The recent addition of defenseman Mathew Dumba fits nicely with the Winterhawks' plan. In just three games, the 6-foot, 180-pounder from Calgary, Alberta has made his presence felt. Dumba has come through with one goal, three assists, one nice showing in a fight against Spokane, good work on the power play, and more.

"He's been really good," Johnston says.

Dumba, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2012 NHL draft, played in 13 games for the Minnesota Wild this season before his return to the Western Hockey League, where he spent three-plus years with the Red Deer Rebels.

Dumba notched two assists in his Winterhawk debut, an 8-2 home route of Moose Jaw. Two nights later, versus Spokane, he got another assist and whomped on the Chiefs' Mike Aviani, as Portland won 5-0.

On Monday night, in a 5-2 home victory over Vancouver, Dumba scored with the man advantage for his first goal in a Portland jersey.

"He has a big shot on the power play," Johnston says.

Also, Johnston notes, "he gets the puck out of our zone quick and helps us spend less time in our zone. He skates well. Jumps up the ice. And he's a physical, gritty guy who plays a hard game. I like the way he plays."

The Winterhawks will take a five-game winning streak into Friday's Moda Center match with Everett at 7 p.m. Portland has outshot all its opponent in all five of those games, outscoring the opposition 25-9.

Brendan Burke blanked Spokane, and recent acquisition Corbin Boes is 2-0-0-1 as the backup since coming from Lethbridge.

"That's key," Johnston says, of having two goalies capable of winning games against anyone. "Boes was really good against Vancouver, and Burke was very, very good in the shutout win."