Ferris State's Zech, Salmenkangas Reached Michigan From 9 Time Zones Apart

Last year Cooper Zech and Roni Salmenkangas lived nine time zones apart, a couple of teenagers playing junior hockey on other sides of the world. Zech was in the Pacific Northwest bagging a BCHL title as the circuit’s best defenseman, while Salmenkangas was putting up world-class statistics in Finland’s top U-20 league. Today they are dorm neighbors in Big Rapids, Michigan, freshmen at Ferris State who have given Bulldogs hockey nation justifiable cause for optimism. On Friday night, the 19-year-old tandem contributed greatly to Ferris’ business-like 4-0 shutout against Alaska-Anchorage, with Salmenkangas notching his first NCAA shutout on 27 saves, and Zech collecting a pair of helpers. 

Veteran coach Bob Daniels knows his program is in good shape thanks to his “Gold-Dust” twins. 

“It’s hard not to smile with those two guys out there,” said Daniels, who spent a lot of his post-game presser chiding his troops about their carelessness with the puck, but not young Zech. “He looks like a savvy veteran out there, very comfortable, confident with the puck. He logs a lot of minutes for us out there.” 

Daniels knew what he was getting in Zech, and the kid is delivering. The willowy Salmenkangas, on the other hand, was a bit of a mystery, never scouted by the Ferris staff. Daniels exercised caution before throwing the Finn into the Division I hockey wars. 

“It’s a big change for a kid that young,” Daniels said. “He came straight from Finland; he didn’t have that intermediate step of the North American League or the USHL.” 

But an injury to junior kicker Justin Kapelmaster thrust Salmenkangas into the starting role for both games this weekend against the Seawolves, and the freshman earned a pair of wins. 

“Roni played very well,” his head coach said. “He’s a very calm demeanor.”

A critical part of the Finn’s transition to North American culture was his relationship with his classmate Cooper. 

“We live basically next to each other,” Salmenkangas said. “We do stuff almost every night, get along extremely well.”

“I kinda helped take him under my wing,” Zech said. “We definitely are very close, it helps out on the ice.”

Although they are both brimming with talent, this goalie-defenseman tandem still have plenty to learn, which Daniels does not hide. Zech aches to get into the fun in the offensive zone, sometimes jumping into another player’s role. 

“When he chips it in, he likes to lead the forecheck,” Daniels said with a smile. “We pay guys to do that, you chip it in, just report for duty back at the point.”

Salmenkangas also likes an expanded role, never shy outside his crease. 

“I like to play with my stick, help the D-men,” the young goalie said. “It obviously helps if your goalie can make passes.” 

The veteran Daniels is the ideal teacher to keep his tandem on a steep learning curve, reigning them in without stifling their raw creativity. He knows his Gold Dust Twins are critical to the Bulldogs’ NCAA dreams.

Tim Rappleye is the author of "Jack Parker's Wiseguys" and the forthcoming book: "Hobey Baker, Upon Further Review," set for release in November. He can be reached @TeeRaps.

Germans Tuomie, Michaelis & Napravnik Play A Key Role For Minnesota State

Of the 110 Europeans playing Division I hockey in the NCAA, only six are from the soccer-mad nation of Germany, and three of those six happen to be playing for Minnesota State. 

Debriefing With Mike Hastings After The World Junior Championship

Minnesota State head men’s hockey coach Mike Hastings took a World Junior sabbatical for USA Hockey, leading Team USA to silver after a gold medal game for the ages. FloHockey got a chance to debrief Hastings up at Ferris State during a rare pause in his whirlwind hockey life. 

Minnesota State Collects Two Wins With Hastings Back At The Helm

On Friday afternoon, the Minnesota State bus pulled up to the back side of Ewigleben Arena in Big Rapids, Michigan. The last man out was Mavs head coach Mike Hastings, last seen on Jan. 5 collecting a World Junior Championship silver medal in Vancouver, 2,200 miles away. 

FloHockey Partners With Atlantic Hockey & Hockey East

FloHockey.tv to serve as exclusive distribution partner for Atlantic Hockey and Hockey East.

It's A Good Time Of Year For Bowling Green's Lukas Craggs

Bowling Green junior Lukas Craggs, who was recently named the Hockey Commissioners Association (HCA) National Player of the Month for December, visited with FloHockey’s Tim Rappleye before the Falcons’ big series with Michigan Tech. 

Philip Beaulieu, Northern Michigan Look to Recapture Last Season's Magic

Philip Beaulieu and the Northern Michigan Wildcats are working on putting a regressive first half of the season behind them after stealing the WCHA spotlight in 2017-18.

RinkRap: Trending Toward High-Scoring Defensemen & More

RinkRap spans the hockey world this week, as we explore the latest trend in high-scoring defensemen, the flying nerves of Lake State tough guy Steve Ruggiero, a potential meltdown in Grand Forks and detecting a hockey pulse within in the heart of college football country.

Minnesota State Missing Direction Without Coach Mike Hastings

A tough stretch on the schedule has turned into a rough patch in the standings as the Minnesota State Mavericks have gone winless in their past four.

Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech Give WCHA Great Showing At Great Lakes

When it comes to the Great Lakes Invitational, college hockey’s most heralded holiday tournament, these are the good old days for the revamped WCHA. Just after dinner time Sunday evening, when Lake State’s Diego Cuglietta buried Michigan State with an overtime thriller to advance to the championship game, WCHA commissioner Bill Robertson realized that his league, still searching for a new identity, was guaranteed to have back-to-back GLI champions. 

No. 15 Arizona State, Homegrown Johnny Walker Taking NCAA In Stride

“New Year, new me” isn’t necessary for Arizona State, as the Sun Devils and NCAA leading goal scorer Johnny Walker head into 2019 leaning on experience in their second season of Division I hockey.