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Nobili fired as Reading Royals coach

by Brian Compton
Jason Nobili's first stint as a head coach in the ECHL lasted just 34 games.

Due to a porous 9-23-2 start, the Reading Royals fired the 35-year-old Tuesday morning. Royals General Manager Gordon Kaye flew to Utah -- where Reading was set to begin a two-game series with the Grizzlies -- to personally deliver the news to Nobili. He was replaced by Larry Courville on an interim basis.

"We thought we had found the right guy," Kaye told the Reading Eagle. "Jason is going to have a good career ahead of him. He just wasn't the right fit here."

Nobili was an assistant coach in the Ontario Hockey League for four seasons before spending another four seasons as Gerry Fleming's assistant with the Florida Everblades. He finally received the opportunity to be a head coach last summer, but not much went right during his time in Reading.

For starters, the Royals allowed 4.06 goals per game, the most in the league. They also possessed the worst penalty kill in the ECHL and took only three leads into the third period. In his final game behind Reading's bench, the Royals dropped a 6-2 decision to the Dayton Bombers at the Sovereign Center.

Still, Nobili flew with the team to Utah on Monday. Twenty-four hours later, he received a visit from Kaye and got the news that he was terminated.

"Today is just a bittersweet day," Kaye said. "You're upset to lose a guy like Jason and that you have to come to this decision, but at the same time, we're excited to see what Larry is capable of."

Even though established coaches such as John Marks -- the ECHL's all-time winningest coach -- and Chris Cichocki were available, Kaye decided to promote Courville, who had only been added as an assistant coach in the first week of December. Courville played in 152 games for the Royals between 2001 and 2008.

"With Jason's scenario, it's tough," said Courville, who had a goal and 2 assists in 33 career NHL games with the Vancouver Canucks. "He's got a family that he has to worry about, a wife that's pregnant. Unfortunately, things weren't going great with the team. Someone needs to take a fall, and a lot of times it's the coach who takes the fall."

The three months remaining in the Royals' season provides Courville to shred the interim tag and become the team's full-time coach next season. Reading split its two-game series in Utah and will visit the Idaho Steelheads on Friday night.

"It was always a position in the end that I strived for, to eventually be a head coach," Courville said. "I'm getting my opportunity. I'm going to make the best of it. Am I in the best scenario that I wish I was in? No. Is it going to be a struggle and are we going to have to give our 100 percent every day? Yes. But are we focusing on next year? No. Right now, we're looking to make our team better, play every game as best as we can, and work."
Around the ECHL -- Wes Goldie of the Victoria Salmon Kings was named the CCM Tacks Player of the Month for December after scoring a league-leading 14 goals, while Todd Ford (6-1-0, 1.72 goals-against average) was tabbed the RBC Financial Saver of the Month. The Salmon Kings won 10 of 12 games in December. ... The Trenton Devils will retire Scott Bertoli's No. 19 in a pregame ceremony at Sovereign Bank Arena on Feb. 21. Bertoli played for the Trenton Titans from 1999-2007 and is the franchise's all-time leader in goals (182), assists (344) and points (526). ... The Bakersfield Condors acquired defenseman Donny Grover from the Cincinnati Cyclones in exchange for goaltender Ryan Nie. The ECHL announced that Shane Warschaw has been selected as the referee and Mike McDevitt and Mike Hamilton have been chosen to be the linesmen for the 2009 ECHL All-Star Game. ... Idaho's Matt Climie was named the CCM Vector Rookie of the Month for December. Climie went 5-1-0 with a 2.31 GAA and a .920 save percentage. ... The Wheeling Nailers acquired rookie defenseman Kelly Sullivan from the Steelheads in exchange for future considerations. The Nailers also signed rookie forward Ben Geelan.

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