As her senior season and career with Boston University Women’s Hockey concludes, Ali Calderone leaves the program as part of a legacy that laid the cultural foundation of future groups for years to come.
After suffering a season-ending injury just two games into her sophomore year, Calderone fought back through multiple setbacks to return halfway through her junior season and become one of the team’s most reliable blueliners as a senior, earning the team’s Most Improved Player award with 36 blocked shots and a career-high six assists in 36 games. On her career with the Terriers, the left-shot defender had nine assists and 62 blocked shots in 91 games.
The Kirkland, Que. native was awarded the 2020 Paul Lewis Student-Athlete Service Award, which recognizes “a senior student-athlete who has demonstrated a commitment to serving Boston University, the Department of Athletics, and the larger Boston community over the course of their time at BU.”
A three-time Hockey East All-Academic selection, Calderone had extensive charitable efforts during her time in Boston, organizing a team trip to Community Servings, serving as a registrar for the annual Making Strides against Breast Cancer Walk, fundraising for Hockey East’s Skating Strides against Breast Cancer initiative, volunteering with the Special Olympics of Boston and Travis Roy Wiffle ball tournament, and interning with the Travis Roy Foundation.
Calderone will continue her career and education with the Condordia University Stingers in Montreal, Que. beginning next season.
On Monday, Calderone took the time to think back on her career as a Terrier and her personal growth before looking ahead to what life holds next for her and her family.
Patrick Donnelly: Just to kick things off, what does daily life look like for you right now with everything going on these days?
Ali Calderone: I just finished classes, so I’m trying to keep busy as best as possible because if not the days are kinda long. I’ve been getting a good workout in, which takes at least an hour or hour and a half out of my day.
I usually read, too. I’ve been reading Harry Potter a lot. Sometimes I try to find new things to do – new things to bake or cook. I’m trying to make sourdough bread, which has been consuming a lot of my time, as well as being with family and friends.
PD: You spent a lot of this year paired with Nadia Mattivi, who stepped into a pretty big role as a freshman. What was it like kind of helping her along as she adjusted to college hockey and the North American game?
AC: I love playing with Nadia. She’s definitely a young player, but she doesn’t really show that on the ice – she seems seasoned like the rest of us. I really liked playing with her because I feel like we had a good bond off the ice, which makes playing with her that much more gratifying. I feel like I didn’t really have to help her out that much because she already knew what it’s like playing at a really high level. So, she adjusted pretty easily.
PD: What was it like to win the Beanpot in 2019, where it’s such a significant achievement for not only your group but the program as a whole?
AC: Winning the Beanpot was a surreal moment – probably one of the best I’ve had at BU. Honestly, just being able to win the Beanpot, not only for our team but for all the other teams in the past, who may have fallen a bit short – we have this banner “Ladies of the 80’s,” so we definitely did it for them.
They were the last group of girls to have won it, so it’s cool to look back and see all the history. Knowing we were able to do that for the program is a legacy we’ll have at BU.
PD: You had a season-ending injury two games into your sophomore season and didn’t return until about halfway through your junior year. Would you mind just describing what happened and what it took to get you back to playing?
AC: That was honestly a really hard part in my college career. Having an injury is never easy, and having a few injuries back to back, like I did, was really hard. Some of the things that I did on the backend that nobody may have really noticed was just having to go into rehab everyday alone, and having to workout by myself when the girls were on the ice.
There were a lot of times where I was just alone and having to motivate myself and keep myself accountable. If I wanted to be the best player that I could be coming out of the injury, I had to push myself, even when no one was around, which was definitely hard.
I tried to be as positive as possible because you want to be a good teammate, and you still have a big role to play even though you’re not on the ice. Being a good teammate, being positive, and being supportive of the girls is something that really kept me going. I obviously love to watch them play, so I was just trying to be as supportive as possible behind the scenes.
PD: Of all the accomplishments and moments you had during your career at BU, what stands out to you the most?
AC: The Beanpot is definitely a huge, huge moment, but I would say on a personal level playing my first game back after injury. I was definitely afraid of playing again because I was afraid of getting hurt, but I think that just being able to play again and do something I love was a huge moment for me.
Another really awesome moment was our senior night. We’re eight seniors, so it’s a really big class. Just to be able to have a game dedicated to us and play our hearts out was definitely really fun as well.
PD: You were awarded the Paul Lewis Service Award and you’ve done a ton of charitable work around Boston, with Hockey East, and the Travis Roy Foundation. What drew you to that side of things and giving back as much as you have?
AC: I think it was probably right after my injury, Travis came to speak at our school, and he was talking about his injury – obviously mine was on such a lower scale. But it was nice being able to relate to what he was saying with not being able to play the sport you love and having to watch everyone else do it.
He’s such a good speaker, and afterwards, I couldn’t get the message out of my head – it was so powerful. That really drew me to want to volunteer for his organization. He’s so incredible, such a good leader, and such a good person to be around. He’s so passionate about what he does. So that really drew me in and led me to intern for them one summer.
That kinda opened the floodgates for me to want to try new things and volunteer at different places. It’s really cool looking back on the great opportunities we have in Boston. We’re all so lucky to be at BU, so I think that’s a really good platform for us to try to do good and help other people who might not be as fortunate.
PD: Where are you most proud of your growth over the last four years whether it’s personally or collectively as a team?
AC: That’s a good question. I would say the culture we’ve created over the last two years is something that I’m really proud of. When you come in as a younger player on the team, you’re a little bit afraid of being yourself and playing the way you know how to play because of the age gap between you and the other girls. Sometimes there’s a bit of an intimidation factor, too.
Something that I’m really proud of for my class is that Natasza [Tarnowski], Sammy [Davis], and Reagan [Rust] really tried to make sure the culture on our team was very accepting and like a family. If ever you had a problem, it’s not like you just stick to your class. It’s like a family, whether you’re a sophomore, a freshman, or a senior, we’re all gonna be there for each other. So, I think the culture that we’ve created and that we’re gonna leave for the next group of girls is something that I’m really proud of.
PD: Your sister Andriana is going to be joining the team next year. How did that whole process go for her and the family? I imagine you must’ve been a pretty big part of that.
AC: I’m so excited for her, and I know she’s really excited as well. She actually came on her official visit during the weekend of our senior week last year. That’s always such a fun time because there’s a lot of celebration, a lot of joy, and a lot of happiness.
So, she definitely saw our team at its peak and she was so excited from there on out and really wanted to be part of BU and everything else that goes along with it. She’s come to see me play as much as she can, and she’s been around BU a lot. She’s definitely very excited.
PD: Could you describe her as a player, like if there might be any similarities in your games?
AC: I would say growing up we definitely had similar styles, but now we’re a little bit different. She’s an unbelievable skater. She can skate forever, and she also has very good poise. She knows how to make the right plays. So, I would say that we’re maybe similar in our skating, but she’s probably better though.
PD: Looking at what’s next, you’ll be continuing your career and education with Concordia next year. Was that an option that was on the radar for you and what was that process like?
AC: It’s never ideal when you get injured and have to miss a season, but a good silver lining that came out of it is that I get to play an extra year or two at Concordia. If I stayed in the States, I’d have one year of eligibility and if I came back home, I’d have two. So, that definitely drew me into coming back home.
The coaching staff at Concordia is a really great group, too. [Head coach Julie Chu] used to play on the U.S. Olympic team and captained them. So, definitely being around her and the rest of the coaching staff drew me into wanting to play for them. Also, being able to get my Master’s degree and go into higher education was kind of a win-win.
This interview has been edited and condensed.