When Ryan Donato received the puck midway through the first period Thursday night, he was thinking about a recent conversation with his father, Ted.
“He told me, ‘Don’t shoot too high, shoot low,'” Donato recalled.
That’s exactly what the 21-year-old center did in USA’s crucial preliminary round game against Slovakia on Thursday.
With 12:51 to play in the opening period and the score tied at zero, Troy Terry sent a backward pass to Donato, who corralled the puck, skated forward and sent a wrist shot past Slovakia goalie Jan Laco to give Team USA the lead.
“When I got the puck on the first (goal), I was thinking low blocker,” Donato said to reporters after the game, “and it went in. It was a good feeling.”
Donato also delivered for Team USA in the third period. With the score again tied, he tallied the eventual game-winner when he finished a spinning backhanded shot from the top of the crease.
From there, the United States held on for the 2-1 win.
“That was a goal-scorer’s goal,” Terry said about Donato’s game winner (via the L.A. Times). “He can finish like no one else.”
Ryan is plenty used to taking advice from his father. He currently plays for Harvard, where Ted serves as the head hockey coach.
And Ted is a worthy source of Olympic advice. He was one of the top scorers for the United States at the 1992 Winter Games in Albertville.
The two have discussed hockey every chance they’ve had to speak these Olympics. And Donato acknowledges that the conversations with his father have helped prepare him for the Olympic experience.
“He said, ‘Do not be too caught up in what happens,'” Donato said. “There are a lot of highs and lows in the tournament but I just have to stay focused and keep my composure.”
Ted Donato registered seven points for Team USA at the 1992 Winter Olympics. He went on to play 796 NHL games, scoring 150 goals and adding 197 assists. Current United States head coach Tony Granato seems to appreciate his input.
“I think we probably mentioned (shooting low) to him too,” Granato said jokingly following the win (via USA Today). “But we will give his dad credit for that one. And if he wants to call back with any more tips before the (next) game he can do that.”
Team USA is set to return to action in a pivotal game against the Olympic Athletes from Russia on Saturday.