WHEELING, WV- The Wheeling Nailers, proud ECHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins, are excited to announce that they have signed two goaltenders to ECHL contracts for the 2022-23 season. Wheeling has signed Ryan Bednard and Mario Culina.
"We are really happy with our goaltending depth," said Nailers Head Coach Derek Army. "We feel very confident in both goalies being able to win games for us."
Bednard, 25, is entering his fourth professional season, after spending the majority of his first three years in the state of South Carolina. Ryan started his pro career in the Florida Panthers organization, as Florida selected him in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. That led him to the Greenville Swamp Rabbits for the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, where he went 30-18-9 with a 2.65 goals against average and a .913 save percentage. The 2020-21 campaign was a huge one for Bednard, who earned ECHL Goaltender of the Week honors four times, was one of four goaltenders to reach the 20-win mark, and helped Greenville win its first playoff series since 2014. This past year, the Macomb, Michigan native took his talents slightly east to the South Carolina Stingrays, and finished with a save percentage of .900 or better for the third straight season. Ryan has seen AHL action in all three of his pro years, as he has skated into the crease for the Springfield Thunderbirds, Syracuse Crunch, and Hershey Bears. Prior to turning pro, Bednard played three seasons of college hockey at Bowling Green State University, where he was teammates with current Nailers Adam Smith and Max Johnson. He also played junior hockey locally with the USHL's Youngstown Phantoms and NAHL's Johnstown Tomahawks.
"Ryan is a veteran goalie, who has had really good numbers during his three seasons as a pro," Army said. "He caught my eye when he played terrific against us with Greenville, and he is the perfect person to provide a veteran presence and hold the back line for us."
Culina, 25, has played in parts of two ECHL seasons with the Newfoundland Growlers and Fort Wayne Komets, and has gone 10-7-0 with a 2.98 goals against average and a .905 save percentage. Mario first turned pro in 2018, after he completed his junior hockey career with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. He won each of his first five starts with the Growlers, then opted to go to school, as he attended Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. The Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario native played two seasons with the Badgers and turned in solid numbers, as he had a 2.51 goals against average and a .922 save percentage in 17 appearances. During the 2021-22 season, Culina made his return to the pro game, as he signed with the Komets. He was victorious in five of his final nine starts, and allowed two goals or less in four of his five wins. Mario had a winning record in four of his five seasons as an amateur, which included a trip to game seven of the conference final in his final year with Kitchener, where his goaltending coach was current Pittsburgh Penguins Goaltending Development Coach Kain Tisi.
"Mario was recommended to us by Kain Tisi, who worked a lot with him in juniors, and liked him both as a goalie and as a person," said Army. "He is athletic, he battles hard, and he is looking to prove something this season."
The Wheeling Nailers will begin their 31st season on Saturday, October 22nd, when they host the Toledo Walleye at 7:10. Season memberships are available for the 2022-23 season by visiting wheelingnailers.com or calling (304) 234-GOAL. The Wheeling Nailers, considered one of the top things to do in Wheeling, West Virginia, provide affordable family entertainment for fans throughout the Ohio Valley.