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Junior hockey: Kelowna Rockets post win in first game in front of fans in 551 days

Western Hockey League

Kelowna 7, Victoria 3

The Kelowna Rockets opened their WHL preseason schedule with a bang, courtesy of three quick goals, en route to posting a four-goal win over the Victoria Royals.

At Prospera Place on Friday night, the crowd of 1,695 fans couldn’t have asked for a better start, with the hometown team scoring three times in the first four minutes, including a shorthanded goal at 2:10 to make it 1-0.

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It was the first time in 551 days that the Rockets played in front of fans. Under current COVID-19 rules, the 6,007-seat arena can host 50 per cent capacity. The last game played in front of fans was March 11, 2020.

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Further, it was scoring by committee for Kelowna (1-0-0-0), with seven players lighting the lamp: Turner McMillen, Max Graham, Dylan Wightman, Gabriel Szturc, Scott Cousins, Andrew Cristall and John Babcock.

Brayden Schuurman, with two goals, and Reggie Newman replied for Victoria (0-1-0-0), which trailed 4-1 and 5-2 at the period breaks.

Cole Schwebius, with 17 saves on 19 shots, and Cristiano Nicholas, 8-of-9, split goaltending duties for Kelowna. It was the same for Victoria, with Sebastian Wraneschitz (18-24) and Tyler Palmer (3-4) sharing the net.

The Rockets were 0-for-2 on the power play while the Royals were 1-for-7.

The two teams play again on Saturday night, 7:05 p.m., at Prospera Place in Kelowna.

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Elsewhere in the WHL on Friday night:

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  • Kamloops 5, Prince George 3
  • Portland 3, Spokane 0
  • Everett 1, Tri-City 0
  • Lethbridge 3, Medicine Hat 2
  • Red Deer 3, Calgary 0
  • Prince Albert 8, Regina 6
  • Saskatoon 4, Edmonton 3
  • Moose Jaw 6, Swift Current 1

Saturday’s schedule (all times PT)

  • Everett at Seattle, 2 p.m.
  • Edmonton at Saskatoon, 3 p.m.
  • Red Deer at Calgary, 6 p.m.
  • Lethbridge at Medicine Hat, 6 p.m.
  • Swift Current at Moose Jaw, 6 p.m.
  • Prince Albert at Regina, 6 p.m.
  • Portland at Tri-City, 6:05 p.m.
  • Kamloops at Prince George, 7 p.m.
  • Victoria at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
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B.C. Hockey League

The BCHL preseason schedule starts on Sunday, Sept. 19, with Alberni at Victoria.

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Games involving Okanagan teams don’t begin until Sept. 21, with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks visiting the Vernon Vipers.

The Penticton Vees’ first exhibition game is Sept. 24, at home to Vernon. That same night, the West Kelowna Warriors will host Salmon Arm.

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Kootenay International Junior Hockey League

Friday’s results

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  • Fernie 4, Kimberley 1
  • Columbia Valley 3, Revelstoke 2
  • Beaver Valley 4, Nelson 3
  • North Okanagan 1, Chase 1
  • Summerland 2, Kelowna 1
  • Osoyoos 5, Princeton 3

Saturday’s games (all times PT)

  • Golden at Fernie, 6:30 p.m.
  • Chase at North Okanagan, 7 p.m.
  • Columbia Valley at Revelstoke, 7 p.m.
  • Beaver Valley at Nelson, 7 p.m.
  • Kelowna at Summerland, 7:30 p.m.
  • Kimberley at Creston, 7:30 p.m.
  • Grand Forks at Osoyoos, 7:35 p.m.

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