Kimberley’s Bailey Park (above) has committed to the Yale University Bulldogs women’s hockey program for the 2018-19 NCAA season.

Kimberley’s Bailey Park (above) has committed to the Yale University Bulldogs women’s hockey program for the 2018-19 NCAA season.

East Kootenay hockey star commits to Yale

Kimberley’s Bailey Park, 15, is headed to the NCAA in 2018-19 after committing to the ECAC’s Yale Bulldogs

East Kootenay minor hockey has produced another star prospect for the NCAA’s Yale Bulldogs.

Kimberley’s Bailey Park, 15, has committed to the Ivy League school located in New Haven, Conn., joining Cranbrook native Jenna Spring (2003-04 to 2006-07) as yet another East Kootenay product to suit up for the ECAC Division I program.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Park said Wednesday evening of her commitment to the Bulldogs women’s hockey program. “I’m super excited.

“I always thought about [playing for] the national program, but I never really thought [about college]. In the last couple years I started thinking about university.”

Park’s ascent into a future NCAA star began in April 2015 when she attended a university showcase at the Warner Hockey School, located approximately 70 kilometres south east of Lethbridge, Alta.

After captaining the U-16 Kootenay squad at the 2014 B.C. Winter Games, Park wrapped her 2014-15 campaign by skating in Warner, which quickly caught the attention of scouts and coaches in attendance.

It was only a matter of time before the defender and Selkirk Secondary School student was fielding emails and letters from American colleges inquiring about her services.

Wishing to explore her options in an effort to determine what program might be the best fit, Park attended the Banff National Camp Showcase in August 2015, which put her talents on display for more scouts and coaches, bringing more options to the table for the young 15-year-old blue-chipper.

Eventually, the Kootenay Nitros star narrowed her options down to four schools — Quinnipiac University (Hamden, Conn.), Yale, Harvard University (Cambridge, Mass.) and Syracuse University (Syracuse, N.Y.).

A week-long family trip to the northeastern United States gave Park the opportunity to find the best fit and Yale was soon the standout.

“Their overall focus  is about hockey,” Park said. “Other schools have other sports as well. At Yale, the top of the list is hockey.

“After Yale, I’m hoping to pursue the national program.”

Should Park find her way to Canada’s national women’s program one day, she won’t be the first western Canadian product to suit up for an Ivy League NCAA hockey program before donning a red and white Canadian sweater.

Emerance Maschmeyer of Bruderheim, Alta., is in her third season with the Harvard University Crimson. The 21-year-old goaltender has suited up for Team Canada’s entries in a number of notable international tournaments, including the IIHF World Women’s U18 Championships (2012), 4 Nations Cup (2014, 2015) and IIHF World Women’s Championships (2015).

For now, Park will continue to hone her skills in the East Kootenay. She currently plays for the Female Midget ‘A’ Kootenay Nitros, based out of Kimberley. The Nitros compete in the Rocky Mountain Female Hockey League, which is based out of Alberta.

With an elite stride and the ability to read the play well beyond her years, Park has registered five goals and seven points through seven regular season games in 2015-16, leading her team in scoring.

“I’m working on getting stronger and being the most dominant player on the ice every time I’m on the ice,” Park said.

Though she hasn’t yet decided what she wants to study — and there is plenty of time for the 15-year-old to figure that out — Park is considering the idea of studying law when she makes her way to Yale.

Born in Nelson, Park first laced up the skates when she was little more than four years old, playing out of the Castlegar Minor Hockey Association.

After moving to the East Kootenay in 2006, she played out of the Cranbrook Minor Hockey Association, suiting up with mixed teams through her atom years as well as her first season of pee wee hockey before moving into female hockey.

As a second-year pee wee player, Park made the early jump into female bantam hockey in 2011-12.

Those hoping to watch Park and her Kootenay Nitros are in luck this weekend, as the club is hosting its annual home tournament at the Kimberley Civic Centre (KCC) and Marysville Arena (MVA).

“Our team needs to be focused and ready to go,” Park said, looking forward to the hometown tournament this weekend.

Park and the Nitros hit the ice for the first time this weekend when they host Lethbridge Friday afternoon at 1:15 p.m. at the Kimberley Civic Centre.

Friday1:15 – 3:15 p.m. – Kootenay vs. Lethbridge (KCC)3:30 – 5:30 p.m. – Calgary vs. Brooks (KCC)6:00 – 8:00 p.m. – Kamloops vs. Kootenay (MVA)8:15 – 10:15 p.m. – Olds vs. St. Albert (MVA)

Saturday8:30 – 10:30 a.m. – St. Albert vs. Kootenay (KCC)10:45 – 12:45 p.m. – Brooks vs. Kamloops (KCC)12:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Calgary vs. Olds (MVA)1:00 – 3:00 p.m. – St. Alberta vs. Lethbridge (KCC)3:15 – 5:15 p.m. – Kootenay vs. Brooks (KCC)5:30 – 8:00 p.m. – Kamloops vs. Olds (KCC)5:45 – 7:45 p.m. – Lethbridge vs. Calgary (MVA)

Sunday7:00 – 9:00 a.m. – Calgary vs. Kamloops (KCC)9:15 – 11:15 a.m. – Brooks vs. St. Albert (KCC)10:00 – 12:00 p.m. – Olds vs Lethbridge (MVA)1:00 – 3:15 – Bronze medal game (KCC)3:30 – 5:45 – Championship game (KCC)