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Devils: Battle lines being drawn over Frozen Four

Thursday, April 10, 2014
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— If North Dakota beats Minnesota tonight, maybe Seth Helgeson and Mike Hoeffel will have to do Darcy Zajac’s dishes.

If Union beats Boston College, maybe Joe Whitney will have to shine the shoes of Kelly Zajac and Keith Kinkaid.

The Albany Devils have representatives from each of the college teams participating in the Frozen Four today in Philadelphia, and friendly wagers are starting to form.

So far, the only one agreed to was a token $20 bet between Union alum Kelly Zajac and Whitney, a Boston College grad. But before the first puck drops today at 5:05, more will be put on the line, possibly including chores instead of money.

“We just have a friendly little $20 wager right now,” Whitney said Wednesday. “As the game comes closer, I might try to up the ante a little bit because I’m really confident in my team.”

Nothing too crazy, though, Kelly Zajac said, “I don’t want to take all his money.”

These two are the ones who have spent the most time jawing about their teams since the national semifinal slate was set two weeks ago, but there is plenty of opportunity for that to spread to the other guys before game time.

Both semifinals will have a trio of Devils keenly interested. The other Union alum on the team is Kinkaid. In the late semifinal, Minnesota takes on North Dakota. The Gophers are represented by Hoeffel and Helgeson, while UND is represented by Darcy Zajac, the older brother of Kelly.

Helgeson was the lone senior for the Gophers last season, so he knows nearly everyone on this Minnesota squad and feels pretty close to the game.

“It’s nice, talking with them, it’s like I’m with them in some way,” he said. “I followed them throughout the year, and it feels like just yesterday I was playing with them. Seeing the success they’ve had this season, I’m pretty excited about it.”

He said he has not yet proposed a wager to Darcy Zajac, but there has been some fun verbal sparring.

“With me and Hoeffel being from Minnesota, we’ve taken a few jabs at Darcy about having played for North Dakota,” he said. “But there’s not too much talk. I’m sure once Thursday rolls around, though, things will get heated.

“Maybe, if it’s not for a little bit of change, maybe for some duties around the rink.”

Darcy Zajac said he’s still thinking about what stakes he would like to propose to the two Gophers.

Regardless of the stakes, getting together to watch this Frozen Four will add to the

camaraderie between these players, in part because it will be a bunch of guys getting together and razzing each other, but also because it illustrates the common road they’ve traveled to get this far in their careers.

“It’s hard to explain,” Darcy Zajac said. “It’s fun, to know where you’ve come from and how far you’ve gone and how we’re all together now.”

“There’s some pretty storied programs in the Frozen Four,” Whitney said. “Four good teams, and they’ve produced a lot of good players, and we’re fortunate enough to have a bunch of them on our team in Albany.”

Two years after he was a senior on the Union team that reached the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., Kelly Zajac is hoping the Dutchmen can take that next step and reach the finals.

“That represents how far that Union program’s come. It’s made leaps and bounds,” Kelly Zajac said. “It has to get past BC first, but to get to the finals, the national championship, would be quite an accomplishment.”

If that happens, the Dutchmen could face North Dakota, setting the Zajac brothers at odds for the championship game.

“You know what? I would like to see that more than playing BC again,” Darcy Zajac said. “BC has had the better of us in the past [most recently 6-1 in the 2008 Frozen Four, Darcy Zajac’s sophomore season]. That’d be great to see Union vs. North Dakota. One, I want them to beat the Gophers because I’m sick of hearing Hoef talk about it. He’s the one who talks about his past team the most in the dressing room. Two, seeing Union, they’ve come a long way, that organization. It’d be a treat. I don’t know what me and Kelly would put on the table, but we’d have to make some type of bet.”

“That would be pretty cool. I could get another $20 from him, too,” Kelly Zajac said. “It’d be neat to see the schools we played for represented in the finals.”

 
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