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San Jose’s DiGiulio wraps up second USPHL title with Whalers

 

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It’s time for an NCAA Division I hockey team in California, according to San Jose native Joe DiGiulio.

“California hockey is growing – there are good players there,” said DiGiulio, who has split his first almost 20 years of life between California and Arizona. “We have one at Arizona State, now we need one in California.”

DiGiulio was speaking just about an hour after his Hampton Roads Whalers won their second straight USPHL Premier championship. They defeated the Metro Jets, a team that itself was trying to repeat as a league champion, having moved to the USPHL after winning the NA3HL title a year earlier.

DiGiulio, who played with the San Jose Jr. Sharks as a youth player, has been a regular playmaker and grinding forward who helps make room for the scoring heroics of linemate John Moncovich.

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“We all have our roles, but we all contribute at the end of the day,” said DiGiulio. “Honestly, I’m more the guy who passes to ‘Monc.’ I let him score.”

He’s certainly happy live up to this role, if it means bringing home two championships in two years. He is endlessly loyal to the Whalers for bringing him into such a storied junior franchise, which also won the Premier title in 2018.

JOE DiGIULIO

JOE DiGIULIO

“I love this organization, I love everything about it – the coaches, the players, the staff, everything about it is awesome,” said DiGiulio.

DiGiulio started out skating in San Jose. Several San Jose natives played in the USPHL Premier Division, most of them suiting up for the Hudson, N.H.-based Northern Cyclones. DiGiulio knew those players back home – including Guillaume Bose and Mischa Subotin – but they were typically on different teams being a year older.

He played in the Quebec International Pee Wee Tournament – the largest international tournament for that age group in the world – in 2012 with the Jr. Sharks. Suiting up alongside him on that Pee Wee International team were current Merrimack College recruit Joe Cassetti and Grace Scholz, who just completed her first season for Suffolk University’s women’s hockey team.

When he was 14, the DiGiulio family moved to Arizona, where several fateful events occurred in his hockey career and life.

“I used to play summer hockey with Ron Filion and he asked me to come try out for the Arizona Bobcats, so I did,” said DiGiulio.

Bobcats teammates during his four years there included future Whalers teammates Jared Sanchez, Kohl Hedquist and Blake Bjella, all of whom lifted the Premier championship trophy with DiGiulio on March 12 at Merrimack College.

“There was a development and exposure camp in Arizona, and that’s where I met Pat (Cavanagh, owner of the Whalers),” said DiGiulio. “He wanted me to come out to Hampton Roads, and that was three years ago. The rest is history.”

The Whalers have certainly made history, becoming one of the most successful junior franchises at any level over this past decade. In addition to three Premier titles in their last four years, the Whalers organization also won the USPHL Elite title in 2018.

Many roads led DiGiulio to where he is now, but you won’t find a happier traveler.

— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com

(April 9, 2019)