In 2003, then-freshman David McKee arrived at Cornell with little knowledge of where his future would lead him. As the youngest goaltender on the men’s hockey team, few fans, opponents or members of the media expected much from the Texas-born newcomer. The world of collegiate hockey was wide open for McKee to make an impact.
This season, McKee faces a new challenge. After a year in which he successfully backstopped the Red to a 16-11-6 record and earned ECAC Co-Rookie of the Year honors, the sophomore out of Irving, Tex., is no longer flying under the radar. The stakes have been raised, the expectations are high and the Lynah Faithful are restlessly demanding Cornell’s 11th ECAC title. Only now, the spotlight is firmly on McKee.
“[McKee] has shown he has the ability to carry it for the whole season,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “He’s a guy who is going to get a lot of minutes, but he’s going to need to perform to keep those minutes.”
Performing under pressure is one area McKee seems to have under control. In perhaps the most highly anticipated home game of 2003, a raucous Lynah crowd witnessed the netminder stop 21 shots to blank rival Harvard and preserve a thrilling 1-0 victory. During the Red’s critical final weekend of ECAC play last February, McKee led Cornell to its closing two victories; turning aside 45 shots and helping the Red earn a share of the Ivy League title. He subsequently finished the regular season with the top goals against average in the conference (1.37) and the second-ranked save percentage of .939. Both figures ranked McKee among the nation’s best.
Now, with last year’s accolades hanging from the sophomore like chains, one might expect McKee to show a little anxiety heading into the team’s season opener against Army. Quite the contrary, the polished goaltender is all business: calm, collected, and ready to win.
“I’m not thinking about the past too much,” McKee said. “I’m just focused on succeeding one game at a time. Personally, I want to come in and have another good year.”
Despite his virtually flawless play, McKee knows his opponents have not been complacent — after observing McKee’s style for a year, rival sharpshooters will be looking for flaws in the netminder’s coat of armor. Unfortunately for the rest of the conference, McKee has no intentions of letting his shield down.
“I try to be as well-rounded as possible,” he said. “I do a lot of personalized exercises to improve upon my weaknesses.”
This season, McKee is preparing to battle for the ultimate crown: the ECAC title.
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor