Thunderbirds Culina signs with OHL’s Spitfires


Media Update

Release date: Friday, Sept. 4, 2015

Thunderbirds Culina signs with OHL’s Spitfires

By Matt Stefano, Soo Thunderbirds

SAULT STE. MARIE — The Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League have announced they have agreed to terms with Soo Thunderbirds goaltender Mario Culina on a OHL 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, seven losses and three shutouts through 28 regular season games last season.

He also posted a 2.24 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.

Culina was the recipient of the Wayne Chase Memorial Trophy for posting the league’s lowest average last season and shared the NOJHL Team Goaltending Award with Brian Kment.

The 18-year-old Sault Ste. Marie product also became the second consecutive T-Birds goaltender to claim the Wayne Chase award, after Joel Horodziejczyk did it in 2013-2014.

Horodziejczyk set the new NOJHL record for the lowest goals-against average in a season of 1.72.

Culina, 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 went 6-0 with 3 shutouts to help the Thunderbirds win the NOJHL championship registering a 1.23 GAA and .945 save mark, which were tops in the postseason.

At the Dudley-Hewiit Cup he had had two more wins and a shootout loss to help the T-Birds win the Central Canada title for the second time in team history and a berth into the RBC Cup.

Culina becomes the first T-Bird to sign with an Ontario Hockey League club since Nicolas 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.

The Soo Thunderbirds wish to congratulate Mario and his family and wish them success in Windsor.