Kelowna Rockets opened the preseason with a convincing 7-3 win over Victoria Friday

Rockets welcome the fans

For the first time in 551 days, fans were allowed inside Prospera Place to witness a Kelowna Rockets hockey game.

An announced crowd of 1,695, all providing proof of two COVID-19 vaccinations ventured inside to watch the Rockets open the 2021-2022 preseason with a sloppy 7-3 victory over the visiting Victoria Royals.

It didn't take long for the masked crowd to find their voice, as the Rockets scored three times in a span of a minute and 38 seconds.

The three-goal outburst came on their first three shots as the Rockets took advantage of some sloppy defensive play in front of first-year Royals netminder Sebastian Wraneschitz.

Speedster Turner McMillen got Kelowna on the board with a shorthanded effort just 2:10 in. He fought off two Victoria defenders at centre ice, streaked in all alone, and beat Wraneschitz high to the blocker side.

Max Graham, acquired just before the start of training camp, doubled the lead :54 seconds later when his wrist shot from the right circle squeezed in on the short side. Just :44 seconds after that, Dylan Wightman stole the puck in the low slot and beat Wraneschitz to the far side.

After surrendering one, Czech import Gabriel Szturc (pronounced: Sh-Tewtz) pounced on a rebound for his first in a Kelowna uniform.

For the most part, the rest of the night was typical of the first preseason game-sloppy, chippy, full of goals and penalties, most of the latter falling the Rockets way.

Kelowna took seven of the nine minor penalties called in the game, but managed to kill all but the last one late in the second period.

It's something that has dogged the Rockets for several seasons and something head coach Kris Mallette has vowed to change.

Scott Cousins, Andrew Cristall and defenceman John Babcock completed the scoring for the Rockets.

Cole Schwebius went the first two periods, allowing two goals on 19 shots before giving way to rookie Nicholas Cristiano in the third.

Wraneschitz came out midway through the third with what appeared to be a left leg injury suffered while stretching to stop William Irvine in close.

The same two teams will meet again Saturday night at Prospera Place.

More WHL articles