By Matt Stefano
He helped lead the Thunderbirds to Copeland Cup McNamara Trophy and Dudley Hewitt Cup titles back in 2014-2015, signed as a free agent with the Windsor Spitfires in September of 2015, and on Sunday, May 28th, 2017, he got to lift the hardest trophy to win in all of Junior hockey.
The Memorial Cup!
Former Soo Thunderbirds goaltender and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native Mario Culina, won the Memorial Cup with the Ontario Hockey League’s Windsor Spitfires at the WFCU Centre in Windsor, Ontario.
The Spitfires defeated the J. Ross Robertson Cup champion Erie Otters by a score of 4-3.
Erie’s team also had Culina’s former Soo Thunderbird teammate Owen Headrick on it.
Despite having an early exit in the Ontario Hockey League’s playoffs after being eliminated 4 games to 3 by the London Knights in the Western Conference Quarterfinal series, the Spits got an automatic berth into this year’s Memorial Cup Tournament as they were picked to be the host team.
Culina, who served as a backup goalie to Michael DiPietro, had 11 wins, 7 losses, 1 shootout loss and 1 overtime loss through 21 regular season games this year and posted a 2.94 goals against average along with a .899 save percentage.
Culina becomes just the fourth Soo Thunderbirds graduate to win the Memorial Cup, joining Nathan O’Nabigon (2003, Kitchener Rangers), Kelly Thomson (2005, London Knights) and Jeff Whitfield (2005, London Knights).
(Photo credit to Aaron Bell/CHL Images)