Teammates at the major bantam, minor midget and junior A hockey levels in Sault Ste. Marie, the paths of Owen Headrick and Mario Culina will cross again at next week’s Memorial Cup tournament.
But instead of being on the same team as they were for so many years in the Soo, Headrick and Culina will be opponents at the 2017 Memorial Cup tournament that is being held in Windsor.
Headrick takes a regular shift and sees power play time as a defenseman with the Ontario Hockey League champion Erie Otters. Culina, meanwhile, is the backup goalie for the Memorial Cup host Windsor Spitfires, who have been idle for several weeks after losing in the first round of the OHL playoffs.
Hailing from Garden River First Nation just outside Sault Ste. Marie, Headrick has played a lot of hockey since leaving the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association, Lake Superior State Lakers midway through the 2016-2017 season to move to Erie and the OHL.
The 6-foot, 185-pound Headrick played 26 regular-season games for Erie and has followed that up with 22 playoff matches. All together, he has 4 goals, 8 assists, 12 points in an Erie uniform.
A Sault Ste. Marie product, Culina is in his second season with the Spitfires. Over the course of the 2016-2017 regular season, the lanky 6-foot-2, 185-pound puck-stopper posted a record of 11-7-1 with a 2.94 goals against average and .900 save percentage in a secondary role behind Windsor starter Michael DiPietro.
Both Headrick and Culina have 1997 birth dates and are examples of defying the odds to make the OHL.
Headrick was Erie’s 14th-round pick at the 2013 OHL draft while Culina signed with Windsor as a free agent after having never been drafted into the league.
To be sure, it’s a classic case of living a hockey dream for both Headrick and Culina.
From teammates with the Soo Thunder major bantams, the Soo Thunder minor midgets and a Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada championship season with the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, Headrick and Culina have both ascended the ladder to reach the OHL.
And now, with the added bonus of being Memorial Cup participants.