Rancho Palos Verdes native Park helping NCDC’s Cyclones to season-long success
It’s a bit unusual when a first-place team, undefeated in regulation, has put a target on your team’s back.
However, that was the situation going into a Dec. 7 game when the Northern Cyclones took on the 21-0-1-1 Jersey Hitmen in the resumption of NCDC league play.
Why would the Hitmen be so keen to knock off the third-place Cyclones?
Last March, the then-No. 8 Cyclones had knocked off the No. 1 seed Hitmen in two straight games to eliminate the heavy favorite Jersey side from the playoffs in the first round.
“A lot of the veterans really filled in the new guys on the playoffs last year,” said first-year Cyclone Preston Park, a native of Rancho Palos Verdes, located on the coast near Long Beach.
The son of former NHLer Richard Park (who played for the Anaheim Mighty Ducks during the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons) was confident in his team’s chances because of how well they played in November, going a perfect 8-0.
“The group gelled together,” Park said. “The first couple months, we were trying to find our identity. We didn’t know our roles yet and we didn’t know what was asked of us from (head coach) Bill Flanagan. Then everything clicked together. We found out how we all liked to play together. We’re just going to outwork our opponents every single night.”
In 18 games with the Cyclones, Park had five goals and four assists for nine points through early December.
“My game is all about working hard and using a lot of speed as a good 200-foot player,” Park said. “I’m very responsible at both ends of the ice.”
Last season, Park was playing for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings 18U AAA team. It was while with the Kings that Park and his teammates made the trip east to the 2018 Tier 1 Elite Labor Day Showcase.
“(Cyclones general manager) Bill Weiand met me early on and told me he liked the way I played, and he thought I’d fit in well,” said Park.
Park started out with the Jr. Kings AA teams before joining the Wildcats Hockey Club. The Wildcats became the Ontario Jr. Reign.
“I just wanted something a little different for my last year of Midgets, so I went to the Jr. Kings,” said Park. “The coach there was Barry Dreger, who is now the head coach of the Rockets Hockey Club (of the NCDC). A lot of the boys moved on to BCHL, the NCDC and Tier II, though as a team, we didn’t live up to our potential, but it did really help me prepare.”
Additionally, Park got a chance to show his school spirit, playing a couple seasons for St. John Bosco High School.
All of that is now in the past, though, and the only thing on his mind in early December was beating the No. 1 Hitmen and preparing for the next steps in his career, which will hopefully lead to college hockey.
— Joshua Boyd/USPHL.com
(Jan. 10, 2020)