GLASSBORO, NJ – Generally speaking, when you get outshot 33-14, you lose and when you are outshot by a 19 to 3 count 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. Liz ‘Pretzel’ Ditzel, who owns an astonishing .954 save percentage after seven 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 and signed up for “Learn to Play” classes and then enrolled in the House League. One season later, Liz was the only “house” goalie starting on her brother’s spring-league team, against a league that had all “travel” goalies fresh out of their travel seasons.
She learned early the unique obligation of being a goalie, playing extra games when a goalie was needed, often back-to-back, and often at the most inconvenient of times. Nonetheless, Liz had gone from House League to playing against “AA” level players– 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 paragraphs.
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, Liz still relished the physical play and the challenging 70+ miles-per-hour shots. The crashing of her net and the poking loose of already covered pucks helped make Liz feel she was right in the thick of it, and doing her part in the very physical and sometimes violent game that boy’s hockey can be. She loved it.
Having a ‘girl goalie’ had not lost its novelty as Pretzel was well-treated. However, in the following year, many more goalies tried out for the team. Liz surveyed the landscape, recognized the numbers and moved on.
Pretzel holding the Game Puck after pulling out a 3-2 win despite being outshot 33-14
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-hour 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. Additionally, some of the girls could be mean at times. It kind of ruined the fun. Hockey lost its luster, other interests prevailed, and Liz lost the desire to play.
In 2010, Liz Ditzel, a high school 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”.
Pretzel returned from the tragedy of broken dreams to the comedy of an open locker room, silly jokes and funny nick-names. But please remember her and her tag.
I know that I will never forget.