Air Force Academy gets pair of California commitments for ’20-21 season
The U.S. Air Force Academy will get a little bit of everything from two its recent recruits with ties to California.
Both are 2000 birth years, both are defensemen on highly successful teams, and both were drawn to the Atlantic Hockey NCAA Division I school by its elite academics.
However, the similarities end there.
Longtime Southern California player Noah Kim, a Fullerton native, is enjoying a breakout offensive season for the Okotoks Oilers, who finished first in the South Division of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), while former San Jose Jr. Shark Luke Robinson is anchoring a stingy defense for one of the United States Hockey League’s (USHL) top teams, the Dubuque Fighting Saints.
Kim, who is 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, started out playing roller hockey and played for the Anaheim Wildcats before moving on to the LA Selects, which then merged into the Los Angeles Jr. Kings. He played under coach Jeff Turcotte for five seasons for the latter two organizations, and the veteran coach said the Falcons are getting a heady, skilled blueliner.
“Noah’s always been talented,” Turcotte said. “He moves the puck well and he makes smart plays. He’s also a really good skater. When you look at where the game is going in terms of speed and moving the puck, he came along at the right time.”
Kim found his footing this season after his first two junior seasons. He spent 2017-18 in the British Columbia Hockey League and split last season between the North American Hockey League and the AJHL.
“This is my third year of juniors and playing part of last season in the AJ helped me become familiar with the league,” Kim said. “The coaches here have helped my game a lot, as has the league’s playing style. The success of our team has played a role in it, too.”
Kim has designs on becoming an engineer, and that played a big role in his decision to commit to Air Force.
“When you look at how good that school is and all the opportunities they have there, it was an easy choice,” he said. “They have one of the top-ranked engineering programs in the country.”
Robinson, who was born in Tennessee and played hockey there until he was 14 before moving to Dublin, can relate.
“Growing up where I did, I never had a dream school for hockey,” he said. “I didn’t know what I was looking for, so for me, academics were a big factor. I wanted an Ivy League-caliber education, and I realized I could play a sport I loved and get an education.”
While Kim excels at producing offense, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Robinson has embraced a different mission – defense.
“I try to use my size to my advantage,” he said. “I want to be matched up against the top lines and not make it easy on them.”
He’s helped Dubuque to second place in the USHL’s Eastern Conference, and the Saints had allowed 15 fewer goals than any other team through Feb. 27.
“The USHL was a huge draw for me because you’re playing against NHL draft picks and future college and pro players. My role is defense first, but I have to break the puck out well and have my teammates backs.”
His coach, California native Oliver David, called Robinson “the anchor of our defense.”
Robinson, who is an alternate captain, has brought plenty of value off the ice as well.
“He’s the only one like him,” David said. “He’s mature, driven, and self-motivated. He’s all about the team, and he’s a big reason Dubuque has had the success it has the past two seasons.
“His character and his passion for improvement are off the charts. He’s a model for what we’d want to recruit every time.”
At times, winning can take a back seat in junior hockey. After all, college and pro careers are within sight. That’s not the case with Robinson, who played 16U AAA with the Jr. Sharks in 2015-16.
“He totally buys into the concept of making the most of what’s in front of you,” David said. “And he brings everyone along. He’s the example of doing things right every day.”
Both are on track to begin their NCAA careers this fall.
Robinson photo/Stephen Gassman
— Chris Bayee
(April 13, 2020)