A Red Deer hockey player said representing Canada at an international competition was the experience of a lifetime.
Defenceman Luke Bast won a bronze medal with Team Canada West at the World Junior A Challenge in Bonnyville from Dec. 9 to 14. He scored one goal and two assists in six games.
Bast said it was an “unbelievable” experience.
“Not a lot of kids get to compete in it. As cheesy as it sounds, it was an honour and a privilege to be at that tournament. You play against some of the best players in the world at our age group.
“I met a lot of great guys and made a lot of friendships that will last a long, long time. It was super cool putting on the maple leaf for the first time,” said Bast.
Canada West beat the Czech Republic 3-1 in the bronze medal game Dec. 16. Team U.S.A. defeated Russia in the gold medal game later in the day.
Bast said he was impressed by the level of competition at the tournament.
“It’s not an easy tournament to win,” he said. “There was projected to be some pretty high (NHL) draft picks in that tournament. … Looking at what they do and the things that make them so good is eye opening. It was a big learning experience.”
Bast, a second-year defender, has had a standout season in the AJHL, with five goals and 15 assists in 22 games so far this year.
He is a “C” prospect on the NHL Central Scouting Players to Watch List for the 2019 NHL Draft. The five-foot-nine, 170-pound rearguard is committed to the University of North Dakota for next season.
Bast’s AJHL team, the Brooks Bandits, will host the RBC Cup National Junior A Championship in May. The competition will be the same format as the World Junior A Challenge – a week-long five-team tournament.
He said the international event prepared him for the national competition.
“The room for error is extremely small and you have to be extremely focused all week,” he said.
Team Canada West players were selected from the CJHL’s five western Junior A leagues: Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL), Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL), Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League (SJHL) and Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL).