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Ted Donato considers himself lucky, and in some ways he is.
It's not everyone who gets called by Bob Barker to "C'mon down," like Donato was last spring break when he visited The Price is Right studios in California. And even then, it's a one-in-three shot to make the Showcase Showdown, like Donato did with his 75-cent spin of the infamous wheel.
But when it comes to hockey, luck is not what has made this year's men's hockey captain excel. And excel. And excel.
A native of nearby Dedham, Donato became a local hero at Beantown's Catholic Memorial High School, racking up an all-time Catholic Conference high 214 career points. He led Memorial to a pair of state championships in his final two years, when he was named Division I high school Player of the Year by The Boston Globe.
"In all my years playing, I don't think I've ever seen a guy with a better set of hands," says classmate Peter Ciavaglia, who has played with Donato since adolescence on the under-16 and under-17 national teams.
But transcending Donato's stickhandling skill is an intangible ability to perform under pressure. Harvard goalie Chuckie Hughes, who tended the twines at Catholic Memorial during Donato's senior year, marvels at Donato's ability to excel in the clutch.
"He's a money kid. He wears that green in practice with pride," says Hughes, referring to the color of the Harvard first-line practice jerseys. "When the pressure is on and the money is down, he's the guy you want to go to."
Like the time during Donato's senior year when Memorial was down to outclassed Malden Catholic, 6-5, near the buzzer. When Memorial tied the game in the last minute, the coach told Donato to end it. Donato took the puck behind his own net and promptly flew end-to-end, singlehandedly faking out Malden's entire team to push the puck in for the victory.
The appearance that he can score practically at will earned Donato lengendary status and the attention of the Boston Bruins, who drafted him in the fifth round.
"I'm from Boston and to get a chance to play for the Bruins is a dream come true," Donato says.
While Donato harbors dreams of one day wearing the Black-and-Gold, he is still aware of the importance of college. But growing up as a hometown boy, he never even thought about attending Harvard.
For one, he always put more time into hockey than studies. And while Harvard was in Boston, it always lost out to Boston University and Boston College in the street hockey Beanpot dramatizations of Donato's youth.
But his high school hockey prowess soon made Harvard a reality, and he simply couldn't turn down the offer of a Crimson diploma. Since then, his Dick Vitale inspired nickname of the championship sophomore year--PTP (Prime Time Performer)--shows that his magic under pressure still haunts opponents.
Freshman year, his line capped off the season with a 12-point performance in the ECAC playoffs. In the NCAA Championship tourney two years ago, he tallied three goals and earned MVP honors.
And even in the gloom of last year, when disciplinary action threatened to keep him out of action and a shoulder injury did sideline him for most of the season, Donato still conjured up a miracle assist with two seconds left in overtime in his first game back to beat Princeton.
"The bigger the game gets, the better he plays," Harvard Coach Ronn Tomassoni says. "He wants to win."
Such desire makes Donato a motivator--a master at rallying players inside. This rally cap-esque aura and his enormous popularity were reasons why the Crimson elected him captain at the end of last season over his prominent classmates--Ciavaglia, Mike Vukonich and John Weisbrod.
Donato will lead a very young Crimson squad into the new season.
But his ultimate goal is old--a return to Minnesota to relive 1989's glory.
"I'd had a sniff of what it was like to be a winner, but to be a national champion was the greatest feeling of my life," Donato says. "It was something that I'll never forget but it's something I've got to put away for a while until this season's done."
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