Generally speaking, when you get outshot 33-14, you lose and when shots are 19 to 3 against you in the 3rd Period, you do not mount a come from behind victory. In those cases you may not have a goaltender by the name of Pretzel Ditzel. Meaning that Liz ‘Pretzel’ Ditzel, who owns an astonishing .954 Save Percentage after 7 games in net, is not your ‘generally speaking’ goalie.
At age 10, Pretzel went to Lake Placid to watch her brother play in a youth tournament. She came home a goalie in the making. One House League season later, Liz was the starting goalie on her brother’s team. She had gone from House League to AA level – in only 20 games – as the lone female in a male world that is not necessarily ‘visitor friendly’. If you do not get the feeling that Pretzel was born to play goal, please re-read the above paragraph.
Quickly there came a string of successful seasons, scores of highlight saves, a nice trophy collection, and a healthy development in the area of ‘quiet confidence’. Liz soon became the first female to ever play for the notable program at Middletown HS South. It all came oh so easily. Life was great and the plan was to play goal forever.
The plan changed. In High School the boys got bigger. They started shooting pucks at 70 miles an hour. The learned how to crash the net with mean intent, screen the goalie, poke away at already covered pucks, and say things to Pretzel that would embarrass the most seasoned Hockey Moms. Losing to a ‘girl goalie’ had apparently lost its novelty. Pretzel was not well treated, she took the hint and moved on.
Girls’ hockey had a different set of challenges for Liz. The league in which she played covered four different States; thus ‘Game Day’ took on a new meaning. It now took all day to play a game whereas it once meant just a two hours commitment to a family that had both siblings playing distant road games. The ride to practice and back alone took up those two hours. Shots were no longer in the 70 mph range. Frankly, the level of play was not the one to which Pretzel had been accustomed. Hockey lost its luster and Liz lost the desire to play.
In 2010, Liz Ditzel, a HS sophomore left the game. In 2013, Rowan University started a Women’s Hockey program. Liz returned.
This time the big 70 mph slap shots are routinely turned away and the level of play is brisk. This time the long rides are made on a bus, with team mates who respect her, with new friends who cherish her presence, who appreciate her game…she returned to the great sport of hockey, which never lost its love for her, and to a College Program which found some. OK, they found a lot. Beginning in 2016, they will be presenting a trophy to that year’s top goalie called the “Pretzel Ditzel Award”.
She returned from the tragedy of broken dreams to the comedy of an open locker room and funny nick-names. But please remember her and her tag. I know that I will never forget.