Cornell lost 48% of its offensive output after the end of the 2009-10 season. Graduation and key departures exacted its toll on a program that was one season removed from a title run. Dustin Mowrey was among the members of an incoming recruiting class that found a way to make a rebuilding season a success. Mowrey's first regular-season contest saw the talented freshman score two goals against New Hampshire at Lynah Rink. The contest would not end in Cornell's favor, but it was apparent that Cornell had a skilled forward in the newcomer.
Dustin Mowrey would add another goal by season's end. Perhaps the scoring output most noteworthy from Mowrey's first season was his connecting with Locke Jillson and Nick D'Agostino for an assist on the game-winning goal against Harvard. He provided the outburst that made good on the performance of one of his fellow classmates between the pipes. Cornell ran to the 2012 ECAC Championship Final. When the season was complete, Mowrey was the highest scoring member of the freshman class in its first season. The speedy and sometimes gritty forward was just getting started.
Coaching axiomata profess that the steepest learning curve for a college-hockey player occurs between freshman and sophomore seasons. Dustin Mowrey did very little to disprove that belief. Mowrey would join Greg Miller and Sean Collins atop the board for point production at the end of the season. His offensive production even outpaced those of the vaunted talents of freshman forwards Brian Ferlin and Joel Lowry.
The regular season concluded with Mowrey tallying 17 points. Four of those points came from putting the biscuit in the basket. His goal total would double by the end of the season. In true Cornell fashion, Mowrey exploded in the 2012 postseason. Mowrey registered two points in the playoff-opening game against Dartmouth at Lynah Rink. After a double-overtime victory, the sophomore forward waited a mere 67 seconds to put Dartmouth in a deficit in game two. Mowrey scored the first of two insurance goals against Colgate in the 2012 ECAC Championship consolation contest. His goal helped punch Cornell's ticket to the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The spectacle of his goals increased with the stage.
Mowrey was held silent during regulation against Michigan in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. That would not stop Cornell or Mowrey in overtime. A Michigan lapse allowed Dustin Mowrey, Rodger Craig, and Greg Miller to race in on Shawn Hunwick in a break-out play. Miller and Mowrey took their chances, softening the target that was Hunwick, until Craig finally delivered the puck to an unprotected net.
Perhaps Mowrey's best goal of his career came against Ferris State the next day. The Bulldogs struck first against Cornell. In what seemed like an immediate response, Mowrey sprinted in on Taylor Nelson of the Michigan Bulldogs. Mowrey got the Ferris netminder to commit to protecting the inside post then accelerated the puck on the blade of his stick into an open five hole. The goal was as symbolic and emotional as it was essential. It put Cornell back in the game and had fortune been more favorable, it would have been the goal that saved Cornell's Frozen-Four run. It motivated Cornell. The Big Red did not relent for the remainder of the game. Mowrey had some of the best challenges of the waning minutes of the contest.
The season ended on an unfortunate bounce and a broken hockey stick. However, this did not stop Mike Schafer from pouring praise on the progress that Mowrey had made. Schafer regularly referred to Mowrey as the most improved player on Cornell's team and referred to him often as becoming an exemplar hockey player. He was right. However, fate and Mowrey's unique skills ironically would cost him an explosive junior season.
Mowrey was positioned for a phenomenal junior year. Schafer would call upon his talents to fill voids that misfortune opened on Cornell's roster. Mowrey was on pace to eclipse his point production from his sophomore season. He had notched nearly twice as many points at the midpoint of the season as he had his sophomore season at the same point. Then, injuries depleted the position of center on Cornell's lines. Particularly, he helped center the line of McCarron and Esposito after Bardreau was injured. Mowrey proved more than able to fill the role on those lines. He helped his team at center, abandoning his natural position of wing.
This movement and a late-season injury caused a slight drop-off in terms of point production during Mowrey's season. Mowrey was injured during Cornell's last regular-season contest and during the entire Princeton playoff series. He returned to the line-up against Quinnipiac in the 2013 ECAC Quarterfinals. Mowrey's playoff form returned despite playing in a new position. The junior forward assisted on Braden Birch's break-out goal that opened game three.
What to Expect
Dustin Mowrey has been what Cornell has needed him to be at various points in his career. His sophomore year, he filled the role of goal and point scorer. His junior year, he was a role player. The question is what role will Cornell need him to fill this season. Mike Schafer has shed light on this topic. Schafer states that with a large corp of new players joining Cornell hockey, the team will need leaders. He consistently emphasizes Dustin Mowrey's name on the list of players, including letter wearers, who he believes will need to fill a leadership role.
This is a large vote of confidence from a coach of Schafer's calibre. Mowrey showed flashes of leadership last season. There should be little doubt that he will be able to do the same on a larger scale next season. I am sure that many members of the Lynah Faithful hope that his scoring touch from his sophomore season will return.
Injury and role changes likely undercut Mowrey getting in a groove like that he was in his sophomore season. Assuming that Mowrey can find a rhythm and returns to his role as wing, it is likely that he will be a potent threat again. If Mowrey can return to his scoring form, the lines that Cornell can assemble will prove dangerous to all opponents that face the Red. It is unlikely that Mowrey will crack the top three in scoring this season, but it seems equally unlikely that he will not be contending for a top-five scoring position on Cornell during his senior season.
Speed, grit, and skill with a knack for scoring in the playoffs? If Mowrey can stay healthy and in position this season, opponents that do not respect this senior forward will pay dearly. Expect Mowrey to show young forwards with a touch for scoring how they fit into the Cornell system with early contributions that will remain consistent over the season.
A Look Back
Several wearers of number 20 conjure up immediate images of bygone eras of Cornell hockey. Roy Kerling wore 20 and helped Cornell win an ECAC Championship his sophomore season. Duanne Moeser who tri-captained the 1985-86 team to playoff glory with Schafer wore a carnelian-and-white 20. Former Cornell assistant and current Clarkson head coach Casey Jones wore it during his career. Evan Barlow wore 20 in the 2000s. No matter on which era one focuses, the wearer of 20 provided a lasting effect upon the institution of Cornell hockey or left an unforgettable impression on those fans who watched.
Dave Westner wore the number 20 from his sophomore season of 1969-70 until he graduated at the close of the 1971-72 season. Westner, even as a sophomore, was called upon to give Cornell the performances that it needed. Illness forced captain John Hughes to miss starts in February 1970. Hughes played a pivotal role on the 1969-70 season. When the captain was unavailable, Ned Harkness turned to newcomer Dave Westner to fill the hole in the line-up. Westner performed admirably. While serving in relief for Hughes, Dave Westner found the back of the net for the first time in his career.
Descriptions such as "hustler" began being used in The Cornell Daily Sun to characterize Dave Westner's style of play. He typically raced in on defenders and stick-handled through them before besting opposing goaltenders. He became known as a quick, tenacious forward. Westner broke into the top-five scorers on Cornell's squad in Dick Bertrand's first season. He only fell behind players of the quality of Larry Fullan and Brian McCutcheon while besting future great Carlo Ugolini.
Dave Westner kept pace his senior season with 40 points on the year. He demonstrated a keen skill for providing scoring flashes during playoff runs. No time was this more apparent than during his senior year's postseason. Cornell made appearances in the 1972 ECAC Championship Final and national-title game. Westner provided 10 points over the associated postseason. Cornell downed Denver in the 1972 NCAA Semifinal contest by a margin of seven Big Red goals to two Pioneer goals. Four Red goals came off of Westner's stick.
The performances that Westner gave, especially those in the playoffs, are not soon forgotten by those who had the privilege of witnessing them. The exact same can be said about the play of Dustin Mowrey. In a manner honoring the legacy of Westner, Mowrey plays a hustling game while play what role Cornell needs. Both shared a noteworthy ability to score big and memorable goals in the national tournament. No one who watched either Westner or Mowrey play can forget the energy and skill that they brought to the game and how it lifted their team. Mowrey looks to building upon this legacy of his this season.