The Reading Royals announced Thursday the team has agreed to a contract extension with Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations Kirk MacDonald. The contract is a two-year deal with a team option for the 2021-22 season. MacDonald has directed the Royals to a 76-52-13-6 record (.582 pts. %) in his first two seasons as Head Coach. Reading completed 2018-19 on a six-game winning streak and eight-game point streak, the best finish of any ECHL team in the regular season.
“On behalf of the entire Reading Royals organization, I am proud to announce our contract extension with Coach MacDonald,” stated General Manager David Farrar. “He is a tremendous leader that thinks and coaches the game the right way. We couldn’t be more excited to have Kirk coach our team going into the first year of ownership with the Berks County Convention Center Authority.”
“I am thrilled to announce this extension with the Royals and continue to build on the momentum we established late last regular season,” MacDonald said. “I would like to thank the BCCCA, David Farrar, our front office and wonderful fans for the support they provide. We are already planning our team for next season and excited to return to the ice in a few months.”
MacDonald has been the Royals Head Coach for two Kelly Cup Playoff appearances; he served as interim Head Coach during the 2017 playoffs and guided Reading to a 2018 postseason berth with 39 wins and 87 points. He and former coaches Derek Clancey and Larry Courville are the only Royals head coaches to win at least 34 games in each of their first two full regular seasons. MacDonald is the seventh coach in Reading’s 19-season history.
Under MacDonald’s direction in 2018-19, leading scorer Chris McCarthy finished tied for second in the league with 54 assists and third at 74 points. It was the second straight season a Royals player finished top-three in league scoring (Matt Willows, 74 pts., 3rd in 2017-18). The 2018-19 Royals registered the second-best shot differential in the ECHL (+3.4) and were third in the league attempting 33.6 shots per game. Twelve Royals played in the AHL in 2018-19.
During his first full season, MacDonald navigated Reading to a third-place finish in the North Division. From Dec. 28 to the end of the 2017-18 regular season, the Royals boasted a 25-11-7-0 mark. A 2013 Kelly Cup Champion with Reading, MacDonald was named first named Head Coach and Director of Hockey Operations on May 24, 2017.
MacDonald joined the Royals as an assistant in July 2014. During his tenure as assistant, the Royals compiled a record of 119-72-14-8 in 213 regular season games (.610 pts. %). The team qualified for the playoffs in all three seasons during which MacDonald served as an assistant. Prior to joining the Royals as an assistant coach, MacDonald was an assistant for one season (2013-14) at his alma mater Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.
As a pro player, MacDonald recorded 217 points (96g) and 358 penalty minutes in 406 games over six-plus seasons. He played 272 of those games in the AHL and 24 Calder Cup Playoff games. In the ECHL, MacDonald had two stints with the Royals (2008-09, 2012-13). During the 2012-13 championship season, MacDonald racked up 38 points (16g) and 57 penalty minutes during the regular season, then played every playoff game (22 GP, 4g, 8a). He scored the game-winning goal in Game 5 of the 2013 Eastern Conference Finals vs. Cincinnati, propelling Reading to their first-ever Kelly Cup Finals.