Joe Spagnoli, on the way up.

By Jason Shaner

Getting to the United States Hockey League isn’t an easy task but Joe Spagnoli feels he is ready for the challenge. The USHL, a Junior A hockey league that will be moving to Tier 1 status next season is based in the Midwest United States. Originally the league had much smaller roots but in recent years has expanded anywhere between Chicago, Illinois to Topeka, Kansas. The league is considered by many to be the top Junior hockey league in the U.S. and has produced some top notch talent. Grant Potulny who scored the game winning goal in the NCAA national championship game recently for the U. of Minnesota played for the Lincoln Stars. Scott Clemmensen (Des Moines Buccaneers)was the star goaltender for Boston College taking them to the frozen four several times. Other stars such as Ruslan Fedetenko (Sioux City Musketeers) and Erik Cole (Des Moines Buccaneers) have made a mark in the NHL as well. For Joe, he has done the work and may very well be on the path to a Division I school in the near future.

Spagnoli, a 5’10” 165 pound goaltender, just finished his senior season for Cranston High School West in Cranston, Rhode Island. As a Co-Captain, he went 13-4-2 with a 1.53 goals against average and .925 saves percentage during the regular season to show he has the skill to play Junior A hockey. He bagged his fair share of recognition and awards as well. He was named to the Burrisville Invitational All Tournament team, was a Division II 2nd team All Division selection and was named All-City goaltender. Joe had hoped to try-out for a USHL team a couple of years ago but decided against it after a leg injury kept him out his sophomore season. He returned his junior year to go 15-3 with a 1.34 goals against average, .921 saves percentage and had five shutouts, and again won the distinction of being the All-City Goaltender and also was the City Cup Champion, but again decided he needed his senior year to get him ready for USHL play. “I feel the USHL offers me the best opportunity to move onto the next level” said Spagnoli. Joe’s season of hockey isn’t quite done though as he was given the honor of being selected to participate on an Elite High School team in the Hub City Hockey tournament, run by Neil Hall a scout for the USHL. With his skills continuing to improve, he has been watched by several USHL teams.

Currently, Joe has not been tendered by any USHL team. This may be due to lack of exposure in the area. Cranston High School West is in the B division in Rhode Island and not many scouts come to watch unless they are playing Mount St. Charles, a place that has spit out such stars as Brian Berard, Brian Boucher and Chris Chaput. He feels his strong work ethic is a big positive for himself and will help him be successful in anything he does. Joe is the kind of player who will always pay attention to his coach’s advice to help him improve, which is what the USHL is there for in the first place, to help players hone their skills and advance on to the next level. He isn’t picky where he goes, as long as he gets to. “I am willing to play for almost any team as long as I am provided with a good opportunity to improve and display my skills” he said. “I just want to continue playing the game I love and have dedicated my life to, for as long as possible” he added.

Life isn’t all about hockey, as he has goals in life also. “In the future I would like to play for a Division I program on a scholarship and then move on to the professional level. After I am finished with my hockey career I’ll enter the business world in some way” he added. Certainly just the opportunity to get a college education would be the ultimate payoff. If he continues to work as hard and be as successful as he has in his past, there isn’t anything to stop him.