Vipers search for new head coach

Duncan Wray conducted three phone interviews before lunch Tuesday morning as the search for a new head coach/GM of the Vernon Vipers begins.

Duncan Wray conducted three phone interviews before lunch Tuesday morning as the search for a new head coach/GM of the Vernon Vipers begins.

Jason Williamson left the B.C. Hockey League franchise Saturday for personal reasons. Wray, the team’s longtime owner, addressed the Vipers after their exhibition win over the Salmon Arm SilverBacks Saturday night.

“It boggles my mind how many resumes we are getting from all over North America,” said Wray. “We’re going to get something done in the next while, as long as it takes to get the right man.”

Williamson, 33, was set to enter his fourth year as the bench boss and eighth season overall with the Vipers’ coaching staff.

Last season, the former Viper captain guided the team to the Interior Conference title and a semifinal appearance at the RBC Cup.

Added Wray: “Jason has decided he needs some time away from the game to get his affairs in order and I respect that. He has been great for our hockey club and will be missed, however, we must move forward.”

Assistant Kevin Kraus is the interim head coach/GM, while Eric Godard will increase his role as an assistant coach.

“I’m confident in what Kevin can do in the short-term with Eric’s help, but it’s unlikely to be a permanent thing, and he’s content with that,” said Wray.

Kraus, a Californian, served as head coach/GM of the KIJHL Revelstoke Grizzlies for two years before working as an assistant coach under Troy Mick with the BCHL Salmon Arm SilverBacks last season.

“I think I’m ready to handle the load,” said Kraus, who was captain of the 2009-10 Royal Bank Cup champion Snakes. “None of us expected this to happen, but Jason did a good job recruiting and setting up the team for success.”

Said Viper captain Riley Guenther: “It was a little bit of a shock to us; we weren’t really expecting this. We know he has his reasons and we respect him for doing what he has to do.

“The mood is fine with everyone; we need to keep moving forward. Nothing changes for us; we need to keep focused on what we are doing. The morale is OK.”

Guenther said the sudden coaching switch won’t  change his role.

“I don’t think so. I’m here to make sure guys are still on board with what we have going on. Duncan told us he is trying to get it done sooner than later. But we are ready to go with Krauser for now.”

Kraus and Godard both played in the Western Hockey League and with Kraus being a d-man and Godard a forward, they should bring a solid dynamic to the bench.

Kraus isn’t going to rewrite the Vipers’ playbook now that he’s in charge.

“We’re just getting the team ready for the Showcase (Sept. 19 in Chilliwack versus Cowichan Valley Capitals). We want to be a puck-possession team. We don’t want to give up too many goals, but we don’t want to limit our offence.”

The Vipers play a final pair of exhibition games this weekend with Prince George Spruce Kings visiting Friday at 6 p.m. The teams battle Saturday night in Prince George.