Fair or not, so much of what happens in a short tournament comes down to goaltending. That's exactly what Friday's quarterfinal game between the U.S. and Slovakia came down to -- the team with the better goaltending won.
made all the saves for Slovakia while Thomas McCollum
of the U.S. let two stoppable shots get past him in the first period, and that was the difference as Slovakia earned a 5-3 victory and moved on to a semifinal date with Sweden on Saturday, while the U.S. will face the Czech Republic in the fifth-place game on Sunday. The Czechs lost 5-1 to Russia in the other quarterfinal.
Janus faced 47 shots, but seeing more rubber than the 401 is nothing new to him. He has seen 970 shots, the third-most in the Ontario Hockey League, where he plays for the Erie Otters.
"I like it, I like more shots," Janus said. "It's good."
The shots worked like spinach on Popeye -- the more that came, the better he got.
"Their goalie played unbelievable," said U.S. forward James van Riemsdyk
, who scored his team's final goal when flipped a backhand from his belly past Janus with 1:18 left. "He played like the second coming tonight. It was unbelievable.
"I don't think I've ever run into a goalie that hot. He was all over the net, seemed like he was a brick wall."
The first brick was placed early, when the U.S. was awarded a penalty shot just 55 seconds into the game. Jordan Schroeder
tried a deke, but Janus kicked out his right leg and denied the backhand attempt from in close.
That first save was a wake-up call for Janus, and gave him and his team the feeling that something special could be in store.
"After penalty shot and I made save," Janus said, "that was my start."
And then, brick by brick, the wall got bigger and bigger — and the U.S. shots just kept hitting and bouncing away.
"After the first period, when the score was 3-1, then we knew we can beat them," Janus said.
While Janus was making all the big saves, McCollum was having one of the worst nights of his career. Adam Bezak's shot off the rush ticked off his glove and went in, Tomas Tatar
flipped a knuckling backhand that got past him, and then Jozef Molnar blocked an Ian Cole
shot in his end, pounced on the loose puck when Cole's clearing attempt hit a linesman, and scored the third goal when his shot hit Cole and got past McCollum.
"The first one curved away from me, I just misjudged it," McCollum said. "Third one was a lucky break for them, hit off my defenseman and went in."
While pucks were getting behind him in some odd ways, Janus continued building his wall. In the second he lost his stick but managed to stop Aaron Palushaj
. He denied Schroeder on a backhand on the post, and kept a loose puck out of the crease on a U.S. power play. Then came the save of the night, when he went post-to-post in spectacular fashion to rob Tyler Johnson of a sure goal.
U.S. captain Jon Blum scored to make it 3-2 at 5:31 of the third, but Janus continued to shine. And if the first brick was laid in the first minute, the final ones were set in place in the last minute. After van Riemsdyk's goal, and with the U.S. pressing, Janus denied Mitch Wahl
on the post, and stopped Kevin Shattenkirk
's blast from the high slot.
"Jaroslav played extremely well for them, but at the same time we hit a few posts where if the puck hits the post and goes in, it's a whole different game," McCollum said.
"A lot of the credit goes to Jaroslav. He came out and played fantastic and stole the game for them."
"I think it’s the biggest factor, goaltending," he said. "Every game they have to be the best player. Here it's the best players in the world. Goalies have to play good if they want to win the game.
"I gave my teammates confidence and we started playing well."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com.