March 24, 2003
What's that old saying?
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen? Or, if you can't stand the cold, get off the ice?
Brown University senior goalie Pam Dreyer can stand the cold. And the heat, and the pressure. Otherwise, a long time ago she wouldn't have set a goal to make the United States Women's National Team. Now that's happened since this resident of Eagle River, Alaska is one of two goalies selected to represent the USA in the International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship which runs from April 3-9 in Beijing, China.
"It's going to be intense," said Dreyer, who as a sophomore led the nation with a .941 save percentage and tied for first with seven shutouts. "First, you've got to make it out of your pool. Hopefully, you'll be playing Canada for the gold medal.
"That's a lot of pressure, because people are wondering when are we ever going to win this thing and get the monkey off our back."
Monkey? How about a two-ton gorilla, because the USA women have earned seven silver medals -- one for each year since the tourney's inception in 1990.
"You don't want to lose (in the finals) for the eighth time in a row," said Dreyer. "Maybe part of my being invited was how I played in college. I feel I'm a big-game goalie ... considering all the tournament games we've played.
"They may have seen that and felt here's a girl who won't freak out."
Indeed. Just ask Brown coach Digit Murphy, who knows a thing or three about the pressure of playing in international competition.
"I think Pammy's a cool customer and will be up for the challenge," said Murphy. "Anyone who looks at Pam sees her as a calm goalie who seldom gets rattled.
"From a talent perspective, Pam makes it look easy. She's always on the right angle. She's very methodical ... she's not a 'showboat' goalie. She's probably the best stickhandling and passing goalie in the (Ivy) league. You notice her because she makes save after save and you say 'That goalie's good.' "
Dreyer enjoyed a good junior season after that spectacular sophomore campaign, leading Brown to the ECAC championship and the finals of the Frozen Four, where the Bears lost to Minnesota-Duluth. She was named the Most Outstanding Player in the ECACs, and earned New England Hockey Writers Association All-Star honors.
But she still harbored a hollow feeling, a sense that much had gone unfulfilled.
"Last summer I was selected for the Under-22 team in Lake Placid," she said. "Being named to that was an achievement. I hoped they liked what they saw and I'd be picked for the Top-40 camp team or the Four Nations.
"When I wasn't chosen for that, I was upset. But being selected to this team was a relief off my shoulders. I felt maybe they do feel I'm good enough and can compete at this level."
Dreyer began competing at a young age and improved to the point where she needed stiffer competition. The all-girls Anchorage Firebirds provided competition -- to a point. So, after her freshman year in high school she joined the Anchorage North Stars and played goal for boys' teams.
"You talk to anyone and they'll tell you the pace of the men's game is so much quicker than women's hockey -- and women's hockey has come a long way," said Dreyer. "The shots are a lot quicker in terms of release time off the stick as well as velocity. The choice of shots is different.
"Looking back, it took me a while to adjust to the type of shots girls chose. They like to come in closer to the net and wait for that perfect shot."
Dreyer admits she was far from perfect while making the transition from men's hockey to women's hockey.
"I've gone to camps in Lake Placid and been brutal the first three days because my timing was off so much," she said. "I was talking to myself and getting frustrated because I knew I should be making saves.
"I expected the shot to get there sooner and I had to change my style."
As far as Murphy's concerned, playing boys' hockey had more pluses than minuses for Dreyer.
"Unfortunately in girls' hockey, when you're as good as Pam, you don't understand backup roles," she said. "You're the best goalie, they put you in the net and say 'Let's go.'
"Since Pam also played boys' hockey, this added another dimension to her game."
Of course, making the long haul from Alaska to Rhode Island is another dimension in travel all by itself.
"I'm not surprised we found a goaltender in Alaska, but for a kid to come out of there and come to Brown shows she was serious about playing college hockey," said Murphy. "They do field a team with the best girls in Alaska. The best kids play, as opposed to having four or five teams like in Massachusetts.
"They do the recruiting for us."
When Dreyer talks about Alaska, it's almost like she's making a recruiting pitch - not for playing hockey but just to visit the state.
"You have the mountains surrounding you, you have the ocean ... the people are probably the friendliest you can find anywhere.
"I took Alaska for granted while growing up. It's probably one of the most amazing places you can ever visit ... you see so much different scenery."
Now that Dreyer's on the verge of taking the biggest step of her career, one that could be a stepping stone to the US Olympic Team, she realizes the thoughts she harbored as a kid didn't make her different from anyone else.
"I always had childish thoughts ... maybe it was the stupid, little girl in me ... but I felt I always wanted, and could, play for the men's Olympic team," she said. "When women's hockey became a medal sport, I wanted to try and make the 1998 and 2002 team, but things didn't work out. I hadn't played too much my freshman year (four games, to be precise) because I was behind Ali Brewer.
"But it's always been a dream to compete at the highest level and take national pride in what you're doing. Whenever you put on the USA hockey jersey, you're representing the whole country and not just your school."
Story orginally featured on USAHockey.com