Winterhawks' assistant coach hired at Utica

Green filled in behind Portland's bench for suspended Johnston

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

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Travis Green, who as acting head coach guided the Portland Winterhawks to the 2012-13 Western Hockey League championship, has been hired as the head coach of the Utica (N.Y.) Comets of the American Hockey League.

The Comets are the top minor league affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks, who own the team.

For the Winterhawks, Green served as assistant general manager and assistant head coach under Mike Johnston beginning in October of 2008. Green was the head coach most of last season, leading the Winterhawks to the league title while Johnston served a season-long WHL suspension.

"I'm incredibly proud of everything we achieved in the five years I was here, but I feel I'm ready to take the next step and become a head coach," Green said. "We built a championship team and a culture of winning here, and they're lessons I will take with me for the rest of my career."

Johnston said he anticipates hearing from a lot of people who are interested in replacing Green with the Winterhawks. Johnston said he would like to hire someone within three weeks.

Kyle Gustafson, the Vancouver resident who has been with the Winterhawks for nine seasons, will have an increased role next season, according to Johnston. The responsibilities of the coaches will be defined after the new assistant coach is hired, Johnston said.

Gustafson moved behind the bench last season to assist Green. In previous seasons he was in charge of video scouting and in on-ice skill development.

Steve Kariya, who took on the video scouting role on a short-term basis last season, is no longer on the Winterhawks staff but will be someone the Winterhawks talk with in their search, Johnston said.

Green took over as acting head coach in late November and led the team to 37 wins in the final 47 regular-season games. After winning the third WHL title in franchise history and first since 1998, the Winterhawks advanced to the championship game of the Memorial Cup, losing to the Halifax Mooseheads.

"Travis has done a terrific job with the Winterhawks as a coach and also on the management side," Johnston said. "He's played an integral part in our success, and like our players it's great to see him move on and get a professional opportunity. We wish him all the best in Utica."

• Winterhawks forward Brendan Leipsic has been added to the roster for Canada's National Junior Team summer development camp, which takes place Aug. 4-10. Portland's Nic Petan and Derrick Pouliot had previously been selected.