Following an injury to former Peoria teammate Curtis Sanford, Cody Rudkowsky made his National Hockey League debut on Thursday to become the 196th former East Coast Hockey League player to advance to the NHL.
The 24-year-old Rudkowsky is the third ECHL goaltender to make his first NHL appearance in the past week, joining Sanford and Tim Thomas. Sanford, who played for Peoria in 2000-01 and 2001-02, beat Columbus on October 17 while Thomas, who played for Birmingham in 1997-98, led Boston to a 4-3 win at Edmonton on Saturday.
Sanford, who made his NHL debut last Saturday, left Thursday’s game at Edmonton in the second period with an ankle injury. Rudkowsky, who grew up an hour outside of Edmonton, entered the game at 9:57 of the second and made 10 saves in St. Louis’ 2-1 win.
“I saw the ref talking to Curtis and it looked like they were pointing at his pad or his skate,” said Rudkowsky. “I thought maybe he lost an edge and, all of a sudden, the ref comes to me and says, ‘You gotta go, you gotta get in there’.
“I was always an Oilers fan growing up – Grant Fuhr, Andy Moog, Bill Ranford, Curtis Joseph,” said Rudkowsky. “For me, just growing up an hour away from this building, it’s awesome just to get out there on the Coliseum ice and play.”
Rudkowsky opened the 2002-03 season with Trenton, making 15 saves in the Titans’ 4-3 season-opening win over Richmond on October 11, before being called up to Worcester on October 14. He was called up to St. Louis four days later on October 18 before even playing a game with Worcester.
In 2001-02 with Peoria, Rudkowsky was 5-2-4 with a 2.03 goals against average and a .919 save percentage in 12 regular season games and 0-1 with a 3.08 goals against average and a .902 save percentage in the Kelly Cup Playoffs. In 1999-2000 with Peoria, he was 6-4-0 with a 3.20 goals against average and a .875 save percentage in 10 regular season games and 1-1 with a 3.02 goals against average and a .860 save percentage in the Kelly Cup Playoffs.