The Windsor Spitfires hockey club has announced today they have agreed to terms on giving Soo Thunderbirds goaltender Mario Culina a standard Ontario Hockey League player and education package.
Culina, who attended Spitfires camp as a free agent, signed with the T-Birds during August of 2014, and had 21 wins, 7 losses and 3 shutouts through 28 regular season games last season, along with a 2.24 goals against average and a .912 save percentage.
He was the recipient of the Wayne Chase Memorial Trophy, posting the league’s lowest goals against average of 2.24 last season and shared the NOJHL Team Goaltending Award with Brian Kment.
The 18 year old also became the first T-Bird goaltender to claim the Wayne Chase Memorial Award, after Joel Horodziejczyk did in 2013-2014, setting the new NOJHL record for the lowest goals against average in a season of 1.72.
The Saulite, who also suited up for Team NOJHL at the 2014 Central Canada Cup Challenge, was also the recipient of the Joey Mancuso Award as T-Birds rookie of the year.
During the playoffs, Culina had 6 wins, 0 losses and 3 shutouts to help us to our third Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy in team history. His 1.23 goals against average and .945 save percentage were the best during the NOJHL postseason.
At the Dudley Hewiit Cup Tournament, he had 2 wins and a shootout loss to help us be crowned Central Canada champions for the second time in team history, along with claiming a berth into the RBC Cup. He also led all goalies in minutes played at the Dudley Hewitt Cup with 199:11.
Culina becomes the first T-Bird to sign with an Ontario Hockey League club since Nick Sicoly, who signed with the Guelph Storm back in September of 2014. He will also join Sault native Anthony Stefano on the Spitfires.
“Today is a proud day for the Soo Thunderbirds program,” said T-Birds general manager Jamie Henderson. “The goal every season is to develop players and Mario has earned the opportunity to play in the OHL following a tremendous season last year.”
“Mario worked extremely hard with goalie coach Jamie Disano, not only this year, but all Summer and it’s great to see that hard work pay off,” added Henderson.
We want to congratulate Mario and his family and wish them success in Windsor!