San Jose: German Goalie Dimitri Pätzold a Net Asset

By Kevin Wey

German prospect goalie Dimitri Pätzold had a busy 2002-03 season, mounting a challenge for the number one goalie for the Mannheim Eagles of the DEL, the distinction of being Germany’s top young goalie, and as San Jose’s top goalie prospect.

Pätzold’s season started in August, playing for the Eagles of Mannheim in the Cologne Arena Cup in relief for starting goalie Mike Rosati in the Eagles 5-4 victory over the Cologne Sharks. The young German, who turned 20 on May 19, 2003, then made his way to San Jose for training camp, missing Mannheim’s first five DEL regular season games. Mannheim’s September 27th contest against the Hannover Scorpions marked Pätzold’s first DEL action in the 2002-03 season, saving all nine shots he faced in relief of Rosati.

The evening of Oct. 6 marked Pätzold’s first 2003-03 DEL start, as the fourth round pick of the 2001 NHL Entry Draft saved 19 of 22 shots for a 3-2 victory over the Kassel Huskies. Pätzold also started Mannheim’s next two games, with 20 saves on 21 shots against Frankfurt in a 4-1 win, but let in four on 25 shots against Berlin for a 5-4 win. Sitting the next three games, Pätzold picked up another win October 27th against DEG, saving 24 on 27 shots. Krefeld defeated Pätzold in his next appearance November 3rd scoring five goals on 28 shots.

Despite an up and down start to the season, Pätzold was named Germany’s third goalie for the Deutschland Cup, with Pätzold starting in Germany’s third game in the four-team tournament against Canada. Pätzold played well making 27 saves on 29 shots, but his teammates failed to score against the collection of Canadians playing in Europe.

Upon returning to DEL action, Pätzold did not appear again until November 29th in relief of Rosati, saving 20 on 22 shots, but picking up the loss as the Eagles nearly came back to defeat the Frankfurt Lions. Pätzold was rewarded with the next start against the Iserlohn Roosters, and the young German responded giving up only one goal on 23 shots. Mannheim’s next game against the Berlin Polar Bears also saw Pätzold start, but the Eagles were defeated when former San Jose Shark Yvon Corriveau scored the game-winning shoot-out goal as Pätzold gave up three goals on 26 shots in regulation.

Continuing his challenge against Rosati, who is a member of the Italian national team as an Italian-Canadian, Pätzold saw a one game rest before starting again versus the Schwenningen Wild Wings. The weak Wild Wings mounted a challenge, managing three goals on 24 shots as Mannheim staved off defeat by scoring four. Pätzold against started the next night on December 15th against Ingolstadt, giving up two in a 22-save 4-2 victory. Heading into the World Junior Championships, Pätzold had a .896 save percentage, but a decent record of 8-3. Although Pätzold’s save percentage was merely average, the 19-year-old German was playing against Germany’s best and dozens of former NHL, IHL, and AHL players, so the young goalie’s DEL accomplishments were encouraging.

While developing in Germany, it was in Nova Scotia that Pätzold woke the world to his abilities. As Germany’s starting goalie at the World Junior Championships, Pätzold stood on his head against some of the world’s mightiest hockey nations. Germany’s first match against Finland saw Pätzold do all he could facing 37 shots, saving 33 in the 4-0 loss. Although his teammates could not crack the Czech Republic defense in a 3-0 loss, Pätzold made 27 saves against Germany’s vastly superior neighbors. Canada went all out, barraging Pätzold with 53 shots in their 4-1 victory, as the Canadian crowd began to take to the German goalie. Nashville Predator first round draft pick Scottie Upshall was impressed with Pätzold, saying the goalie “stood on his head.”

Pätzold’s superhuman efforts faced a setback against Sweden, as German allowed six goals in just over 32 minutes of action in a 7-2 loss that saw 2003 NHL draft-eligible Patrick Ehelechner play in relief. Germany’s next game against Switzerland was a 6-2 blow-out loss that saw Pätzold pulled after 33 minutes, giving up four goals. Ehelechner got the start against Belarus in Germany’s only victory of the tournament, but the 4-0 shutout couldn’t save Germany from relegation to the First Division for next year’s World Junior Championships.

Despite a strong performance at the WJC’s, Pätzold saw less action in the remainder of the DEL season. Pätzold did start Jan. 12 against Frankfurt, but gave up four goals on 25 shots, squeeking out a 5-4 victory. Over a month later on Feb. 14, after the DEL All-Star Game and the Swiss Cup break, Pätzold saw action again in a 3-2 victory saving 20 shots. Rosati started Mannheim’s eight remaining games, as Mannheim faltered down this stretch with a 3-5 record. The Eagles final game of the season saw Pätzold save 10 on 11 shots in relief for Rosati at the 27-minute mark, as Mannheim lost 4-0 to the Nürnberg Ice Tigers.

Pätzold became further acquainted with the end of the bench in the playoffs, as Rosati started every game, with Pätzold only appearing in two games. His first action was in relief for eight minutes in Mannheim’s 6-1 loss against Nürnberg in game two in the DEL Quarterfinals. Despite this loss, Mannheim defeated Nürnberg 4-1 in the best-of-seven series against the Ice Tigers. Mannheim was not so fortunate in the DEL Semifinals when the Eagles were swept by Cologne in three games. Game two of the series saw Pätzold play 25 minutes in relief, making 10 saves on 11 shots.

Sparsely used by the Cologne Sharks in 2001-02, Pätzold emerged as a viable back-up netminder in the DEL at the tender age of 19. Known as a good skating goalie with superior reflexes, Pätzold will likely return to Mannheim for the 2003-04 season. Krefeld’s Robert Müller was the only German-born number one goalie in the DEL, as even Olympic hero Marc Seliger split time in Nürnberg with former IHL ace Frederic Chabot. At 6-1 192 pounds, Pätzold is one of the Sharks bigger goalie prospects, and more talented than the 6’5″ Marc Kielkucki. When Pätzold does come to North America, undoubtedly to start in the AHL, he will receive quality instruction from goalie coach Warren Strelow, who has helped develop San Jose’s three current goalies: Evgeni Nabokov, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Vesa Toskala. Pätzold will face stiff competition from fellow prospect Nolan Schaefer, who is three years older than the Kazakhstan-born German.

At this point, Pätzold should battle with Müller to become Germany’s top goalie and represent Germany in international competition for years to come. However, the German national team will likely find itself playing second fiddle when Pätzold makes his challenge to join the Sharks as their second goalie from Ust-Kamenogorsk.

Born in Kazakhstan, trained in Germany, coming soon to San Jose.