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Fans returning to Prospera Place were treated to a dandy as the Rockets upended Kamloops 4-2

Fans treated to thriller

A pair of newcomers led the way for the Kelowna Rockets, as they welcomed back fans to Prospera Place for the first time in more than a year-and-a-half Friday night.

Colton Dach scored twice while goaltender Colby Knight made some key saves during the opening two periods leading the Rockets to a 4-2 victory in their home opener over the Kamloops Blazers.

With only 50 per cent capacity still allowed due to provincial health restrictions, only 3,400 fans were able to come into the building.

But, even with numbers smaller than usual, Rockets head coach Kris Mallette said they made all the difference Friday.

"It's been a while. I know our guys were excited, I was excited," said Mallette.

"I've been with this organization for quite some time, and to not have these people backing us in the bubble...it's great to have them back. They really gave our guys a lot of boost."

Dach, acquired from the Saskatoon Blades in an off season deal for Trevor Wong did what the Rockets expect of him, score goals.

And timely ones.

Dach opened the scoring with a shot from the right faceoff circle that beat Dylan Garand cleanly to the far side.

Then, with the score tied at 2-2 and the Rockets controlling the puck on a power play, Dach got open on the left wing, took a pass from Jake Lee, stepped into the left faceoff circle and beat Garand to the short side.

"We knew Colton loves to score goals, and he was going to be given an opportunity to play a lot of minutes in key situations.

"Case in point, he finished when he had to. That's what's expected of him, that's what he expects from himself. It's a great start in the first two games that he's played."

The Rockets took a 2-0 lead on goals from Dach in the first and Max Graham, who beat Garand with a bullet of a wrist shot just under the bar in the second.

Knight, acquired from the Edmonton Oil Kings earlier in the week, looked cool and steady in just his fifth WHL start, making key saves on three breakaways to keep the vaunted Blazer offence off the board over the first 40 minutes.

Kamloops got one early in the third when Josh Pillar's centering pass deflected off Noah Dorey's skate and in, then tied it moments later when rookie import Viktor Persson tapped home a centering pass on a shorthanded two-on-one.

But, despite the shift in momentum, it was the Rockets who broke the tie with Dach's power play goal, then sealed it when Elias Carmichael hit the empty net from deep inside his own end.

Mallette says there were some tense moments when the Blazers tied it, but credited his team's resilience in turning the tide against the consensus best team in BC.

"We don't get a lot of credit. The talk in the BC Division is all about Kamloops. I think our players had something to prove, and I think they showed that we can play," said Mallette.

"I know it's one of 14, but our guys are excited, they were very resilient. At times there were some tense moments, but we stuck to a game plan and I thought our execution was great."

For Dach and Knight, it was their first taste of the bitter rivalry that is the Rockets and Blazers.

"That was huge for us. We had a week off to prepare and practice.

"Coming into it, the guys told me it was a pretty big rivalry, so I was amped up, the guys were amped up, and it was an overall good game."

The Rockets are off again for another week before heading to Vancouver to face the Giants next Saturday.



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