Slovakia has pulled off two big upsets to find themselves in the final four of the 2009 World Junior Championships. The hockey mad country is celebrating this great feat, and two players in particular: Tomas Tatar and Jaroslav Janus.
Tatar scored the shootout winning goal to give Slovakia a 3-2 victory over Finland.
While that was considered to be a mild upset, what the Slovaks did on Friday qualifies as a monumental surprise. The Slovaks pulled off an unlikely 5-3 victory over the United States. Tatar scored twice in the game.
Tatar is the Slovaks leading scorer in the tournament. He is NHL eligible in 2009.
The story of the US game, however, was 19 year old goaltender Jaroslav Janus. Statistically speaking "JJ" was one of the worst goalies in the OHL in the past couple of seasons, albeit with the very weak Erie Otters. In fact, he was actually passed over in the NHL draft altogether in 2008.
But on this day he had "the best game of my life," which resulted in what he accurately calls "one of the biggest moments in Slovakia's history."
Janus turned aside 44 shots, many of them in spectacular fashion, as the Americans outshot Slovakia 47-19.
It was almost a home game for Slovakia. Over 18,000 fans attended the game, most of them Canadians cheering against their arch rivals from the United States.
The Slovaks are now guaranteed to play for a medal. They will have their hands full with Sweden in the semi final game on Saturday. Sweden handled Slovakia 3-1 in the round robin.
Regardless of what Slovakia accomplishes in the tournament from here forward, this has been a great moment in hockey history for the young country.