By Ben Birnell

Travis Green said the last two seasons have been great.

He's back for more.

Green returns for a third season as head coach of the Utica Comets after leading the team to a 47-20-7-2 regular-season record and an appearance in the American Hockey League's Calder Cup Finals last season. The Comets, the Western Conference champions, lost to the Manchester Monarchs in five games.

“It was a great year,” Green said during a recent phone interview. “The team played well. The fans were amazing.”

The Comets left Monday for training camp with the Syracuse Crunch in Lyon, France, in preparation for the new season. Utica will play three exhibition games beginning Thursday at Patinoire Charlemagne arena. The team plays Syracuse at 2:30 p.m. Eastern on Thursday and Friday. On Sunday, they take on the Dragons de Rouen, which is one of the most successful teams in France. That game is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Eastern.

“(The trip) is a good experience,” Green said. “It gives us a head start on team bonding. More importantly, it gives us a chance to evaluate our players more.”

The Comets are scheduled to arrive back in Utica on Tuesday, Oct. 6, and they open the regular season four days later on the road against the Rochester Americans. Utica, which moves to the AHL's Eastern Conference this season as part of league realignment, plays its first home game Wednesday, Oct. 21, against Rochester at the Aud. Utica is in the North Division with Albany, Binghamton, Rochester, St. John's, Syracuse and Toronto.

Green's two seasons with the Comets have helped him progress as a coach, he said. Utica's first two seasons were very different. In the team's inaugural season in 2013-14, the Comets went winless in their first 10 games (0-8-1-1), but went on a hot streak near the end of the season and barely missed a playoff berth.

“From a hockey standpoint, it helps knowing the league more,” Green said of his two seasons with the Comets. “Personally, it helps knowing the city more. There's a familiarity.”

After the team's Calder Cup Finals loss in June, Green returned home to Irvine, California, to “re-charge the batteries” and spend time with his wife and three children.

“It was nice to unwind and forget about hockey for a little bit,” said Green, who played 14 seasons in the National Hockey League before beginning his coaching career in 2008 with the Portland Winterhawks junior hockey team. “When you're around hockey for 10 months, mentally it is a grind. But it's a good grind.”

By early September, Green and his assistant coaches Paul Jerrard and Nolan Baumgartner were back with the Canucks, helping develop the organization's prospects in the Young Stars Classic tournament against other prospect teams from the Winnipeg Jets, Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames in Penticton, British Columbia. A handful of players from that the prospects team, such as New Hartford native Mike Zalewski, Hunter Shinkaruk and Cole Cassels, are with the Comets in France.

Canucks head coach Willie Desjardins missed time after having hip-replacement surgery just before the tournament started. Green said despite Desjardins' physical absence, there was little other change.

“Even though Willie was out, there was constant dialogue,” Green said. “From my angle, it didn't change. It was business as usual for me.”

Green is interested to see how the Comets' roster develops as the regular season nears. It's a team that is without top players from last season in Cal O'Reilly, Brandon DeFazio and Bobby Sanguinetti, who all signed with other teams in the offseason.

“We're definitely going to expect bigger and better things,” he said.