Eric Chore (front) and Pearce Eviston skate line drills with teammates at Vernon Viper main camp Friday afternoon at Wesbild Centre.

Eric Chore (front) and Pearce Eviston skate line drills with teammates at Vernon Viper main camp Friday afternoon at Wesbild Centre.

Vernon Vipers pushing the pace at camp

Vernon Vipers start up-tempo main camp in preparation for B.C. Hockey League season.

Small camp, big talent.

There are just 35 players at Vernon Viper main camp this week, and head coach Jason Williamson wasted no time in testing their conditioning as he prepares his squad for the coming B.C. Hockey League season.

Dividing the players into two groups, Williamson pushed them through dry-land training and on-ice sessions, back-to-back, to gauge what kind of offseason training they have put in.

“On the first day, we pushed them through the ringer just to see what kind of shape they’re in,” said Williamson, supported by assistant coaches Jason (JR) Read and former Viper captain Dave Robinson.

“I was greatly impressed by our veteran guys, and some of the guys that came in.

“Some people think that’s a smaller camp, but all 35 are pushing for jobs.

“You could definitely see the nerves in the new guys the first day, being on the ice with some of the veterans. They got worked pretty hard so they’re probably a little bit sore, but they’re all fitting in quite well.”

Tweeted second-year Viper forward Riley Hunt (@rileyhunt10): “I could use a massage in about 14 different places right now. Maybe even mix in an ice bath.”

The Snakes got right into preseason action with a Saturday night game against the visiting NAHL Wenatchee Wild.

Vernon hosts the West Kelowna Warriors Monday night (7:00) at Wesbild Centre, and will head to Royal LePage Place Tuesday for a rematch with Rylan Ferster’s Warriors.

Newly anointed captain Brett Corkey, one of four third-year Vipers, likes the mix he sees at camp. He is eager to erase the disappointment of missing the playoffs last season.

“Last year, we fell short of the expectations,” said the Calgary product. “This year, we’re making sure we’re hitting the ground running and that we’re prepared from the start.

“We seem to have put all the pieces together this year – good scoring up front, some good size and most of our dee are back and the recruits we brought in are top notch.

“There’s a couple of us – (Ryan) Renz, Hads (Aaron Hadley), Spares (Colton Sparrow) and myself – that have been through that (Junior A national) run, and it’s going to take that leadership to push the young guys through it.”

Kevin Guiltinan is one of the Vipers’ defensive recruits, and the 17-year-old Ontario native is looking to add a physical presence to Vernon’s blueline.

“I like to throw the body a lot,” said Guiltinan, who played with Vaughn, Ont.’s Hill Academy prep team last season.

“Not too much offensively, but I’ll jump up into the play a little bit and stick up for my teammates.”

Guiltinan, who impressed the Viper staff at spring camp, is taking a measured approach as he adjusts to the BCHL.

“I’m looking to get a feel for the pace and just get off to a good start. I just want to keep it simple.”