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Bulldogs 'walk the walk' when it comes to culture: Five things to know about incoming transfer Luke Bast

Defenseman Luke Bast, who played the previous two seasons at North Dakota, will join the Bulldogs as a junior in 2023-24.

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North Dakota defenseman Luke Bast carries the puck up the ice in a January 2022 game against Cornell.
Nick Nelson / File / Grand Forks Herald

DULUTH — With fifth-year senior Derek Daschke out of NCAA eligibility and junior Wyatt Kaiser forgoing the rest of his college eligibility to jump-start his NHL career with the Chicago Blackhawks, the Minnesota Duluth men’s hockey program turned to the transfer portal to find a veteran left-handed defenseman for 2023-24.

That guy for the Bulldogs is 23-year-old Luke Bast, a native of Red Deer, Alberta, who spent the previous two seasons playing 268 miles to the West down U.S. Highway 2 for NCHC rival North Dakota.

The News Tribune caught up with the 5-foot-10, 178-pound defenseman this week. Here’s five things Bulldogs fans should know about Bast, plus coach Scott Sandelin’s thoughts on the transfers coming to UMD next season.

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Minnesota Duluth forward Jesse Jacques (18) and North Dakota defenseman Luke Bast (24) fight during the second period on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

Injury held Bast back in 2022-23

Bast posted two goals and four assists in 27 games as a freshman in 2021-22 at North Dakota, helping the Fighting Hawks win a share of the NCHC regular season title and reach the NCAA tournament. In the later part of the season, he was part of the Hawks' power play and penalty kill.

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His college career suffered a setback in early August of 2022 when he suffered an upper body injury that kept him out of the lineup until Thanksgiving. Bast wound up playing in just 13 games in 2022-23, tallying a goal and two assists. His special teams time and time on ice dropped.

“Coming into my sophomore year, I was expecting to pick up where I left off in my freshman year,” Bast said. “I was really, really happy with the finish that I had of my freshman year — playing all situations and getting lots opportunity. We were a winning team, it was fun. The injury was a huge, huge setback for me and it just kind of lingered all year.”

Bast said his injury — that he declined to publicly disclose — hasn’t bothered him since the end of the season while undergoing offseason workouts. He’s planning to be in Duluth for UMD’s May term to meet his new teammates at UMD.

UMD walks the walk when it comes to culture

Bast said he entered the transfer portal this spring looking to find the right people and the right opportunity. The Bulldogs checked both of those boxes, and allowed him to remain in the NCHC, a league he’s enjoyed be part of. It was a perfect fit, he said,

“At the end of the day, hockey comes down to people and opportunity. That's how you develop and win championships,” Bast said. “Sandy and his coaching staff has done a tremendous job of getting people to buy into the culture there and they've had a very, very successful run here in the last couple of decades.”

Bast said he respects that UMD took him out of the transfer portal to fill a void on the roster this season, not to push out any other current players or recruits. He also respect how protective the staff is of the program’s culture.

Talking with Sandelin, associate head coach Adam Krause and assistant coach Cody Chupp, Bast said it was evident the Bulldogs did their homework — not just on what kind of hockey player he is, but person — before offering him a spot on the team.

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“Everyone talks about culture, like literally every program,” Bast said. “There’s some programs that actually walk the walk and other programs that talk the talk. What I’ve heard from Duluth is they walk the walk when it comes to culture. That was very appealing to me.”

Amsoil Arena was Bast’s favorite away arena in the NCHC

Bast’s favorite away rink in the NCHC is now his home rink. It’s also the place he scored his first collegiate goal and a venue he has yet to lose a game at in college.

His first NCAA goal came on Feb. 18, 2022, in Duluth in a 4-3 victory for the Hawks. Bast also had an assist that night as North Dakota went on to sweep the weekend series at Amsoil Arena.

That was Bast’s only series at Amsoil, as North Dakota didn’t visit Duluth in 2022-23. The Hawks and Bulldogs meet four times again in 2023-24, with both teams dropping the puck on NCHC play against each other Nov. 10-11 in Duluth.

“As a competitor, you just want to compete and compete against the best,” Bast said. “Going to Amsoil was always a situation for me where I had to be my best and that was just fun for me to compete like that.”

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The crowd watches as the Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team plays Alberta at Amsoil Arena on Sept. 30, 2017.
Bob King / File / Duluth News Tribune

His older brother, Gabe, almost came to UMD

When doing his own homework on the Bulldogs, one person Bast said he reached out to was his older brother, Gabe, who played four seasons for the Hawks from 2017-2021, right before Luke’s arrival in 2021-22.

According to Luke Bast, his older brother was recruited by both North Dakota and UMD. Despite the Bulldogs ending Gabe’s college career via a 5-4 five-overtime win in an NCAA regional final in Fargo, Luke Bast said his older brother had good things to say about his visit back then with UMD, that it was one he liked and enjoyed.

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Nothing but respect for North Dakota

Luke Bast said his brother being a Fighting Hawk played “a little bit” of a role in him also choosing to go to North Dakota, but only a little bit. Luke Bast said he felt it was the best fit at the time, and he really liked the coaching staff. He still does like the coaching staff, and has a lot of respect for the program still. North Dakota is a cool and special place, he said.

“I really enjoyed my time here in North Dakota. It was a great group of guys here,” Luke Bast said. “I really did enjoy my time here, but at the same time, for me, going into my sophomore year, I was expecting to hopefully get a little bit more opportunity and that wasn't the case. And that's fine, that's all part of the business and I get it.”

What Sandelin is saying about the new transfers

Sandelin said this week that Bast and Penn State senior wing Connor McMenamin are the only two transfers UMD is bringing in for 2023-24. The rest of the roster will be filled out by incoming freshmen recruits. Anthony Menghini and Zam Plante of the United States Hockey League’s Fargo Force are the only two recruits signed to a National Letter of Intent as of now.

Sandelin said he’s excited about the two transfers that are coming in. He said Luke Bast is a driven, hard working player who hasn’t gotten enough opportunity to prove himself.

“He's a good player,” Sandelin said. “I think he's going to bring some really good experience and also some ability that I think most people maybe haven't seen yet. I think there's a lot left for him to showcase. We want to give him that opportunity playing here.”

McMenamin is a player Sandelin said he’s known since McMenamin was younger as he played with Sandelin’s son, Ryan, at USA Hockey select camps. Sandelin said he likes McMenamin’s offensive ability and leadership qualities, as well as the fact that he played at a good program at Penn State.

“He fills a need for us because of the type of player he is,” Sandelin said. “He's going to be really good for us on that left side getting up and down and playing his game. He's a really good 200 foot guy that's responsible.”

Co-host of the Bulldog Insider Podcast and college hockey reporter for the Duluth News Tribune and The Rink Live covering the Minnesota Duluth men's and women's hockey programs.
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