Donati twins share same goal

TERRY KOSHAN -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:11 AM ET

Tyler and Justin Donati have done just everything about together.

So it's natural that both will play for the Eastern Conference title in the Ontario Hockey League, beginning tonight when the Sudbury Wolves and Belleville Bulls hook up in Belleville in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.

But there's a wrinkle. Only one of the 21-year-old twins, who played minor hockey together and then spent the first three years of their OHL careers with the Oshawa Generals and St. Michael's Majors, will advance to the league final.

Both were traded, Tyler to the Belleville Bulls and Justin to the Sudbury Wolves, from the Majors in 2006.

A TEAM THING

"I'm excited to play my brother, and it sucked to get split up, but it was something we had to do if we wanted to make our hockey careers better," said Tyler Donati, who finished fourth in OHL scoring in the regular season with 129 points.

"But this is not about me against him. It's about our team against their team."

The Donatis, who reside in Oakville in the off-season, have endured a much greater hardship than playing hundreds of kilometres apart. Their mother Corinne passed away last summer after fighting cancer.

The Donati brothers have leaned on each other throughout the season, and talk on the phone to each other every day.

"With what we went through, it has made it harder for us," Tyler Donati, older than Justin by seven minutes, said.

"My mom passed away and two weeks later I was here (in Belleville). It was tough, but we both know that life goes on."

Said Justin: "It took quite a toll on me and I didn't react to the situation really well. It was hard to play but a new start (with Sudbury) was good for me."

The brothers forged ahead with a program they started while at St. Mike's. With each point they recorded this season, $10 was donated to fight ovarian cancer at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.

Out of the blue, last summer, Bobby Ryan of the Owen Sound Attack, who did not know the brothers beyond competing against them on the ice, called Justin and said he wanted to get involved. Ryan recorded 102 points this past season to go with Tyler's 129 and the 91 Justin had with Sudbury.

"I thought that was a really classy thing to do," Justin Donati said.

"It was a nice surprise."

Neither Donati has been drafted by an National Hockey League club but there's always a chance one or both could be picked up in the 2007 draft in Columbus in June. If not, the two could look to Europe and play together again. For now, though, a trip to the OHL final is all that matters. Even if one has to beat the other to get there.

"I've already been looking for nice trips for Tyler to take in two weeks," Justin said with a laugh.

"I'm really looking forward to this. It's going to be a lot of fun. One of us is going to be able to do a lot of bragging this summer."

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EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

No. 2 Belleville Bulls (39-24-0-5) vs. No. 6 Sudbury Wolves (29-30-3-6)

How they advanced: Belleville beat Ottawa 4-1 and Oshawa 4-0; Sudbury beat Mississauga 4-1 and Barrie 4-0

Key players: Belleville -- RW Tyler Donati. Named the OHL overage player of the year, Donati leads the Bulls with 20 points in nine playoff games

Sudbury -- G Sebastien Dahm. The Denmark native and former Bull has rebounded after a mediocre regular season with some astounding post-season numbers.

Skinny: The Wolves will play in the third round for the second time in the past 20 years and first time since 1995 ... There's not a better defenceman in the OHL than Sudbury's Marc Staal, who will have a strong shot at cracking the New York Rangers lineup next season ... Bulls forward Shawn Matthias had a breakout season and is tied for second with nine playoff goals ... Eric Tangradi, a rookie forward with Belleville, had 20 points in the regular season but already has 14 in the post-season.

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WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL

No. 1 London Knights (50-14-1-3) vs. No. 2 Plymouth Whalers (49-14-2-3)

How they advanced: London beat Owen Sound 4-0 and Sault Ste. Marie 4-3; Plymouth beat Guelph 4-0 and Kitchener 4-1

Key players: London -- RW Patrick Kane. Leads all playoff scorers with 24 points and has a strong shot at being picked No. 1 in the NHL entry draft in June.

Plymouth -- LW James Neal. Member of Canadian junior team has developed into one of OHL's best two-way players.

Skinny: Many OHL observers tabbed the Whalers to win it all before the playoffs began. Excellent depth is one reason why ... Whalers G Michal Neuvirth, a Washington prospect, leads the remaining playoff goalies save percentage ... Once Plymouth stops worrying about Kane, there is Sam Gagner, another large concern ... Knights C David Meckler leads all OHL playoff skaters with 13 goals and seven power-play goals.


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