In his fourth game with the Kitchener Rangers, Mario Culina did something that hasn’t been done in 12 years.
The Rangers blanked the Erie Otters Friday 3-0 at the Aud, and Culina became the first goaltender to post back-to-back shutouts since John Murray in 2006. As a team, Kitchener shutout Brampton and Erie in October of 2009, but Mavric Parks and Brandon Maxwell each earned a donut.
“It felt really cool,” said Culina of his debut appearance in Rangers blue on East Ave. “There were 7000 fans. I wasn’t used to that. It’s pretty cool they’re all behind us.”
Well, 6950, but all of them were on their feet to salute the new overage goalie in town.
“Culina came up with some really big saves,” said Rangers head coach Jay McKee. “It wasn’t like the whole night was inside the house, but the ones that were were high quality. He came up with some really nice saves that kept the momentum on our side.”
“He’s a little bit of a sleeper,” pointed out Culina’s teammate in Windsor last season – and now Kitchener – Austin McEneny. “He started the year in Ryerson [with the Rams men’s hockey club], and no one saw much of him, then in Sudbury [with the Wolves.] He’s a great pick up. He’s a great guy, and a great guy in the room, so hopefully he just keeps rolling with it.”
So, is McKee ready to give the Memorial Cup winner a chance at a three-peat on Sunday afternoon against the Guelph Storm?
“It’s going to be hard not to go to him. We’ll talk as a staff, and decide what we want to do,” said McKee.
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AUSTIN IS A-OK
McEneny kept rolling himself.
Coming off two assists in Niagara Wednesday, he responded with his first multi-goal game of his OHL career Friday. Even McEneny couldn’t envision Friday’s game, with two goals in his previous 37 contests this season.
“I don’t think he envisioned wearing an “A” either, so a lot of excitement for him tonight,” said McKee, who was right.
“I didn’t even know at the beginning until someone said something,” smiled McEneny. “It was a nice feeling. In my CHL career, I haven’t’ been a captain. It’s nice to feel wanted and that they see me as a leader.”
The “A” on the jersey isn’t just a reward for defending Adam Mascherin Wednesday by dropping the gloves though. It’s a sign that others should model what he does day-to-day.
“Just the way he prepares; he takes care of himself in the dressing room. You see him doing extra stuff after games, taking care of his body,” pointed out McKee. “He’s very engaged in practice and in games, so he’s a guy we’re really happy to have on board.”
So, where has the offensive outburst came from?
“Geeze, I don’t even know, to be honest,” laughed McEneny. “One of those games. It’s nice to feel welcomed in the Aud.”
BROWN IS IN TOWN
Logan Brown joined the Rangers Thursday, after some rehab in Ottawa.
He joined colour commentator Chris Pope in the first intermission.
The Rangers host the Guelph Storm Sunday afternoon. 570 NEWS has the pre-game at 1:30 p.m.