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Hockey: Calabrese battles injury, adversity

Chris Allen | Monday, February 6, 2012

Calabrese, a name typically associated with Notre Dame football, is quickly becoming an Irish hockey staple thanks to junior defenseman Sam Calabrese, who is enjoying a breakout season.

It has not always been easy for the Illinois native, who suffered a massive setback early in his career. In October of his freshman year, seeing action in just his third college game, Calabrese suffered a debilitating leg injury against Miami (OH) and missed the remainder of the slate. The defenseman said he relied on his teammates to get him through the injury.

“I have great teammates here,” Calabrese said. “When I broke my ankle as a freshman, it was tough not playing much, but we have really good groups of guys, especially the guys in my class and the seniors now that were sophomores then.

“They really helped me in giving me confidence to come back and play back, and I could still be a part of the team when I was out.”

With the injury behind him, Calabrese took to the ice last season and led all Irish defensemen in points with 18 as the team went on a run to the Frozen Four. This season, Calabrese has tallied 15 points with a handful of series to play. He again leads all Notre Dame defensemen in both assists and points.

Calabrese said he has grown more comfortable with the program of Irish coach Jeff Jackson from season-to-season.

“You know, as you move through here and you mature, you can relate with [Jackson] a little more,” he said. “He’s a tough coach and he does give you confidence when it’s needed. Throughout my time here, as I’ve gotten older, he’s given me a little more leeway and he’s not as strict with some aspects of my game as he was when I got here.

“Defense is still really important to him so we try and take care of the defensive end of things and let offense take care of itself.”

As a player with the reputation of a defender who can contribute on the offensive end, Calabrese has been paired frequently with reigning CCHA Defensive Defenseman of the Year and senior captain Sean Lorenz on the blue line. Calabrese said the pairing has given him more confidence to contribute to the offensive attack.

“Sean’s a great guy to play with,” he said. “I definitely like being out there with him because it gives me a little confidence to know that there’s such a great defensive player back there if I do want to jump in the rush or whatnot. He helps me out a little with the defensive aspect, and I can take more risks.”

As one of the more tenured members of the Irish roster, Calabrese will help lead the Irish in a crucial home-and-home series with No. 6/5 Ferris State, the CCHA leaders. In a series that will go a long way toward determining who will hang a regular season CCHA championship banner, Calabrese said the key will be discipline.

“You’ve got to be really disciplined here at the end of the season,” he said. “Teams are playing their best hockey. You’ve got to stay out of the box and play smart hockey. It’s going to be important for us to take advantage of special teams and play Ferris State tough.”

Calabrese and the rest of the Irish will hit the rink Friday at 7:05 p.m. at Compton Family Ice Arena.


Contact Chris Allen at callen10@nd.edu