As a last minute add for Slovakia, Gamblers Goalie Adam Gajan proved he was a star in the making in front of the world to see at this years World Junior Championship.
When Team Slovakia announced their preliminary roster for the 2023 IIHF World Junior Championship, the 18-year-old from Poprad was not one of the three goaltenders listed. However after his 27-save shutout performance in his second career start for the Gamblers, a spot opened up for him less than 24 hours later. Gajan entered this tournament as the third-stringer behind Patrik Andrisik and Matej Marinov. When Slovakia lost their opener to Finland, Gajan was not even in uniform. Both of the other goalies were given opportunities against Finland as Andrisik started and allowed 4 goals on 15 shots while Marinov allowed a goal on 8 shots against.
Gajan was given his opportunity the next game against the powerhouse United States team. The United States has won three of the last 10 World Junior gold medals. Gajan dazzled with 33 saves in the 6-3 shocking upset victory over the Americans. This was a massive win and it was the first time he had ever represented Slovakia in IIHF competition. For his efforts against the US, Gajan was named player of the game. Although he did not come out victorious, Gajan impressed again the following game in a 10-round shootout loss to Switzerland 4-3 where he had 33 saves. Gajan capped off preliminary play with a 28 game shutout victory over Latvia.
Slovakia’s Cinderella run ended in heartbreaking fashion yesterday as they lost to tournament favorite Canada in overtime 4-3. Gajan was stellar once again as he made 53 saves against the star studded Canadian lineup. Overall Gajan, stopped 146 of the 156 shots he faced in 4 games posting a 2-1-1 record with a save percentage of 93.59 and a goals against average of 2.4.
According to Gajan, several NHL teams have already been in touch. Only two Slovak goalies have forged multi-season NHL careers: Jaroslav Halak of the New York Rangers (566 NHL games) and the now-retired Peter Budaj (367 NHL games). Time will tell if Gajan can follow in their footsteps.
Gajan returns to the Gamblers lineup this Friday where they take on the Dubuque Fighting Saints at the Resch Center. Puck drop is at 7:05 PM. Get your tickets here!