While the Peoria Rivermen were eliminated in the first
round of the 2011 Calder Cup Playoffs, championship dreams are still alive for
four former Rivermen as the Conference Finals begin. Of the four teams still remaining, only the
Binghamton Senators do not have Rivermen representation on their roster.
Palushaj, Curtis Sanford
and the Hamilton Bulldogs are taking on Jon
DiSalvatore and the Houston Aeros in the Western Conference Finals while Zack FitzGerald and the Charlotte
Checkers are facing the Binghamton Senators in the East.
Palushaj (puh-LOO-shy), 21, put up impressive numbers in
his second professional season and has continued that success into the playoffs
for Hamilton. He has 12 points (four
goals, eight assists) in 12 postseason games for the Bulldogs to rank second on
the team. His seven power-play points
are tied, with teammate Nigel Dawes, for the most in the AHL. During the regular season, Palushaj appeared
in 68 games for Hamilton and racked up 57 points (22 goals, 35 assists) and made
his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens on Mar. 17. He appeared in total of three NHL games this
season without recording a point.
A native of Livonia, Mich., Palushaj was selected by the
St. Louis Blues in the second round (#44 overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft
and made his professional debut with the Rivermen on April 4, 2009 after
completing his sophomore season at the University of Michigan. He competed in
four regular season games and four playoff games in 2009 and returned to Peoria
for his first full season in the fall.
After recording 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 44 games, Palushaj
was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in exchange for current Blues forward Matt
D’Agostini on March 3, 2010.
Sanford, 31, was one of the best goaltenders in the AHL
this season before it ended on Feb. 26 following a shoulder injury. He underwent successful shoulder surgery on
Mar. 17 but will not play during the playoffs.
He finished 2010-11 with a 22-13-2 record, a 1.93 goals-against average
and a 0.930 save-percentage.
A native of Owen Sound, Ont., Sanford played for the
Rivermen in both the ECHL and the AHL. He
first joined the Rivermen for the 2000-01 season and won 15 games as a
21-year-old rookie. The next season he
appeared in 24 games while shuttling back and forth the with the AHL’s
Worcester IceCats. In 2002-03, he stuck
in Worcester and made his NHL debut with the Blues that season. Still under contract with St. Louis, he returned
to Peoria for brief stints in 2005-06 and 2006-07.
DiSalvatore (deh-SAL-vuh-tor), 30, served as the captain
for the West Division Champion Houston Aeros.
He registered a career-high 28 goals this season and has registered at
least 20 goals in all eight of his AHL seasons.
He led the Aeros in goals and points (61) and has five points (two
goals, three assists) in 11 playoff games.
A native of Bangor, Maine, DiSalvatore spent two seasons
in Peoria (2005-07). He led the Rivermen
in points (67) during his first season and helped guide the team to a playoff
berth in their first AHL campaign. He
also made his NHL debut for the Blues that season. After leaving Peoria, DiSalvatore played a
season in San Antonio, and Lowell before joining the Aeros in 2009-10.
FitzGerald, 25, led the Charlotte Checkers in penalty
minutes this season with 229 in 76 games.
He also chipped in eight assists from the blueline. He now has 1,040 penalty minutes in 299
career AHL regular season games. He has
recorded 28 penalty minutes, and one assists, in eight postseason contests for
After beginning his rookie season with the Alaska Aces
(ECHL), he made his AHL debut with the Rivermen in 2005. He played in a total of 42 games with Peoria
over the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons and registered 133 penalty minutes. He
made his NHL debut on Feb. 5, 2008 while a member of the Vancouver
season tickets are now on sale for the 2011-12 season. For more information on the many affordable
ticket plans, visit www.rivermen.net.