Overage goalie Mario Culina has back-stopped the Kitchener Rangers into the Western Conference finals for the first time since 2012. A Sault Ste. Marie product, Culina has won 21 games for Kitchener since the Rangers acquired him from the Sudbury Wolves at the January 9 trade deadline.
In what might be termed the most crucial of the many key moves made by Rangers rookie general manager Mike McKenzie this season, Culina — who was obtained from the Sudbury Wolves for a mere eighth-round draft pick — has been a save machine for Kitchener through two rounds of the playoffs.
The lanky puck-stopper has faced a barrage of 400 shots in 708 minutes of playoff action and has stopped 368 of them for a .920 save percentage to go with a 2.71 goals against average and 8-2-1 record.
In fact, in the second round of the playoffs, the Rangers were able to come back and win three straight games to eliminate the Sarnia Sting 4-2 despite being out-shot in all three of those victories.
All together, regular season and playoffs included, Culina has a record of 21-8-2 with a 2.65 goals against average and .920 save percentage since going to Kitchener from Sudbury.
Having sidelined the Guelph Storm in six games in the first round of the playoffs and then ousting Sarnia in six more, Kitchener will face the winner of the Soo Greyhounds-Owen Attack series in the Western Conference finals.
The Greyhounds and Attack will play the seventh-and-deciding game of their set on Tuesday night in the Soo.
PHOTO: Kitchener Rangers goalie Mario Culina.