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Slovakia shocks United States with 5-3 win in world junior quarterfinals

The Canadian Press
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The Hockey News
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Slovakia shocks United States with 5-3 win in world junior quarterfinals

The Canadian Press
By:

OTTAWA - Jaroslav Janus called it ``the best game of my life.''

The 19-year-old goaltender who went unselected in the NHL draft last June made 44 saves to lift Slovakia to a 5-3 quarter-final victory over the United States in the first big upset of the world junior hockey championship on Friday afternoon.

``It's one of the biggest moments in Slovakia's history - it's unbelievable,'' said Janus, who plays in the United States with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League and joked that he may not be welcomed back after putting what was considered a powerhouse U.S. squad out of medal contention.

The Slovaks advanced to a semifinal meeting on Saturday against unbeaten Sweden. Russia meets the Czech Republic later Friday in another quarter-final, with the winner facing 4-0 Canada on Saturday night at Scotiabank Place.

Tomas Tatar scored twice while Adam Bezak, Jozef Molnar and Richard Panik also scored for Slovakia, whose best world junior performance was a bronze medal in 1999.

Slovakia had not beaten the U.S. in their previous eight meetings at the tournament since 1998.

The Americans, beaten 7-4 by Canada on Wednesday in their final round-robin game, got power play goals from defencemen Ian Cole and Jonathan Blum and a late goal from James van Riemsdyk with goalie Thomas McCollum pulled for an extra attacker.

``It was a game of bounces,'' said U.S. forward Jordan Schroeder, whose team now must play a consolation game. ``It was just an unbelievable performance by their goalie - probably one of the best I've seen.''

The Americans were considered gold medal contenders going into the tournament, but have a history of falling short of expectations. Since beating Canada for gold in 2004, they have only one medal, a bronze in 2007.

This time, they outshot the Slovaks 47-19 and had a huge advantage in puck possession and scoring chances, but Janus stood his ground.

``We just kept trying to throw pucks at him,'' said American forward Jim O'Brien. ``The dam just wouldn't break. We kept piling it on.''

Janus set the tone early when he stopped Schroeder on a penalty shot only 55 seconds into the game after Colin Wilson was hooked on a breakaway.

Bezak went end to end down the right side and beat a shaky McCollum with a shot from the top of the faceoff circle 11:05 into the game.

Less than a minute later, a tic-tac-toe play with Wilson and Schroeder was capped by Cole sliding a puck under Janus on a power play. With the assist, Schroeder passed Doug Weight's team record for assists at the world junior championship with 15.

Panik stole a puck in the U.S. zone and sent Tatar in to score on a backhand shot at 13:41 and Molnar scored after Cole's clearing attempt hit one of the referees and stayed in the zone.

The Slovaks were outshot 16-2 in the second frame, but Janus held the lead, making a blocker save on Eric Tangradi on a backhander from the doorstep 12 minutes in and robbing Tyler Johnson with a glove grab at the side of the net at 16:55.

Janus made two more saves before the puck trickled behind him and Blum poked it in 5:31 into the third.

The mostly pro-Slovakia crowd announced at 18,042 cheered as video review upheld Panik's goal at 11:38 after he blew past Cole and put a shot off the post that went in off a body in front.

McCollum was pulled with about 2:30 left in the game, but a turnover at centre ice gave Tatar his second of the game and fourth of the tournament.

Van Riemsdyk swept in a goal while sliding in the slot with 1:18 left to play.

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Slovakia shocks United States with 5-3 win in world junior quarterfinals