North Dakota’s Frattin finds next gear late in turnaround season

The game was more than half over and the outcome still in doubt when North Dakota senior forward Matt Frattin scored an electrifying breakaway goal to give the Fighting Sioux a 3-1 lead.

North Dakota's Matt Frattin. (Kory Wallen/UND Athletics)
Matt Frattin led the WCHA in goals (22) and points (40) during the regular season (photo: Kory Wallen/UND Athletics).

It brought the crowd of more than 11,000 to their feet, and soon the chant of “Hobey Baker!” echoed throughout Ralph Engelstad Arena. Behind Frattin’s insurance marker, the Fighting Sioux surged to defeat Bemidji State 5-1 on Feb. 27 and stake a claim to their 15th WCHA championship.

The previous weekend at St. Cloud State on a night when the frontrunners in the WCHA title race all lost, the Sioux were trailing by a goal late in the third period. Frattin split two defenders, outraced a third and beat Huskies goalie Mike Lee to salvage a tie and earn an important point for UND.

Although he’s the WCHA’s top scorer and has been one of the nation’s leading goal scorers all season, Frattin has elevated his play and “found another gear” heading into the playoffs, Sioux coach Dave Hakstol said.

“He’s such a fiery competitor,” said Hakstol, who’s in his seventh season at UND. “He’s highly competitive. He’s a big-time player and he’s responding that way.”

Frattin knows that not only is his last year at UND nearing an end, but he also understands the one-and-done finality of the NCAA tournament. The past two seasons, UND has been knocked out of the first round by Yale and New Hampshire in one-goal games.

“You think of it like your time is starting to run short,” he said. “So every game, every shift, you don’t want to leave anything out on the ice. You give it your all every game you’re in.”

The 6-foot, 206-pound native of Edmonton, Alberta, has demonstrated why he was drafted by the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs and is being touted as a candidate for the Hobey Baker Award. His 29 goals (tied for first nationally) and 20 assists have helped the Sioux to their best regular-season record (26-8-3, 21-6-1 WCHA) under Hakstol, despite playing one of the toughest schedules in the country.

“Just as much as he’s a goal scorer, he plays Sioux hockey,” said Brad “Pony” Malone who centers an all-senior line dubbed the “Pony Express” with Frattin and Evan Trupp on the wings. “He kills penalties, he blocks shots and he throws some really big hits.

“Around here, being physical is part of our tradition and part of what we take pride in,” Malone continued. “I don’t think it matters if a guy is 6-foot or 6-8. Matt sees him as an opponent, and he’s going to try to run through him. He’s fearless, and that makes him the kind of player that he is.”

The power of Frattin’s shot, the fierceness of the hits he delivers and his strength on the puck can make him seem bigger on the ice than he appears in person.

“He’s got those tree-trunk legs that make him so explosive and so fast,” Trupp said. “He’s got a lot of muscle on that 6-foot frame.”

Kicked off the team

Less than two years ago, it seemed improbable that Frattin would still be playing at UND, let alone be considered for the award presented annually to college hockey’s best player.

Following two arrests in Grand Forks during the summer of 2009, Hakstol announced just before the fall semester that Frattin had been suspended indefinitely.

Trupp, who has been Frattin’s roommate for three years, said: “I remember when he called me and said he was getting kicked off the team. I thought he was joking at first, and then it kind of hit me.”

The punishment, however, was not unexpected.

“You kind of think something’s coming,” Frattin said. “You get arrested once and you get arrested again a month later. You know some discipline’s coming because you’ve been told you can’t get in trouble any more. The suspension was definitely a surprise, but something that needed to happen.”

Hakstol never closed the door on Frattin’s return to UND and laid out a process for him to follow if he wanted to rejoin the team. Frattin went back to Edmonton, lived with his parents, got a job, stayed in shape and turned his life around. And he remained in contact with two of his best friends on the team, Trupp and Malone.

“We encouraged him to come back,” Trupp said. “We definitely weren’t ready for him to leave.”

“When he was gone, it was like missing the third leg of the tripod,” Malone said. “Obviously, life went on, but we were wishing that he was with us.”

Although Frattin had an opportunity to sign a pro contract and leave his troubles in Grand Forks behind, that’s not what he wanted to do.

“The biggest thing was to face it straight on,” he said. “I didn’t want to leave here with the reputation that got me suspended.

“It wasn’t like I was burning bridges,” Frattin added. “I had really good friendships here. I just made two bad mistakes that cost me a suspension and a wake-up call, which I needed. Those friendships that I made the last four years in college are going to last a lifetime.”

Frattin pleaded guilty in August 2009 to a disorderly conduct charge for which he received a fine, a suspended sentence and one year of probation. In February 2010, a jury found him not guilty of driving under the influence.

“Everybody makes mistakes in their lives,” Frattin said. “It’s how you pick yourself up after them and learn from them.”

Hakstol has no doubt that Frattin learned the right lessons.

“When you factor in the decisions Matt made along the way, it tells you a little bit about his commitment and his conviction,” he said. “His care for how people overall thought of him and his reputation were important to him. There’s no question it was part of his motivation. He realized at the time that he was a little off track and needed to readjust the priorities in his life to pursue the opportunities that were in front of him.”

Making a comeback

When Hakstol allowed Frattin to rejoin the Sioux for the second half of last season, some characterized it as a desperation move to help a struggling team. But the UND coach explained that there was never any guarantee that Frattin could rejoin the team and that his decision had nothing to do with how the team was playing at the time.

“We went through a process that was clearly laid out,” Hakstol said. “I’m not worried about the public appearance of the process. I know we did everything the right way. Most importantly, I know that Matt did everything the right way. That’s what I cared about.”

Having Frattin back didn’t provide the Sioux with an instant boost. UND went 4-5-2 in the first 11 games he played. He had three assists and a minus-2 plus/minus rating.

All that changed during a February road series at SCSU when a line with Frattin, Malone and Trupp took to the ice. Frattin scored his first two goals of the season and the trio has been together for nearly every game since.

“If you think about it from a big-picture perspective, there’s a natural fit to the different abilities they have,” Hakstol said. “They are great friends, so the chemistry was quick and easy for them to build.”

At 6-2, 212 pounds, Malone is a strong, fast, hard-hitting center who’s never shy about mucking it up in front of the net. On the left wing, the 5-9, 174-pound Trupp is a creative playmaker with a scoring touch.

Frattin, a sniper with a power forward’s mentality, anchors the right wing. During the 13 games in which the three played together last season, UND went 11-2. Frattin had 11 goals, eight assists and was plus-10.

“We had tried Matt in a couple different areas,” Hakstol said. “He was working through not having played for four months. Maybe it was a bit of coincidence between him playing and the line combination coming together that seemed to ignite him and the other two guys.”

This season, the three members of the “Pony Express” line have played all but six games together and are having the best years of their college careers. Malone has 12 goals and 21 assists while Trupp has 16 goals and 18 assists.

“With the chemistry we’ve built, all it takes is one shift and it can change a game, which we’ve done a couple times this year,” Frattin said.

Hakstol agreed, noting that the line doesn’t necessarily have to score to alter the complexion of a game. Sometimes it’s a big hit that gets the bench fired up. Other times, it’s a hard-working shift that draws a penalty or inspires the team when it’s playing flat.

“You spend a good part of the season looking for those combinations that fit together,” he said. “This one, on paper, seems to add up, and it does because of the way the guys push themselves and the poise and the presence they have as seniors. It’s a real important factor for our team and for them when they are put in different situations in a game.”

North Dakota's Brad Malone, Evan Trupp and Matt Frattin. (Patrick C. Miller)
North Dakota's Brad Malone, Evan Trupp and Matt Frattin (photo: Patrick C. Miller).

Frattin says he has no regrets about his past because he’s grown from the experience, but if he could start over again, he’d do some things differently.

“I think the first couple of years I was taking school at North Dakota and the hockey team for granted,” he said. “I was kind of living my life just like a regular college student. I wasn’t really living my life like a Fighting Sioux hockey player. I’d probably limit some of the partying time and that kind of stuff.”

When Malone and Trupp were asked if their friend of the past four years has changed, Trupp smiled and replied, “He’s still Frats.”

Turning more serious, Trupp continued: “Maybe one thing is that he’s a little more professional at times. He’s one of the guys that everyone looks up to and he sets a good example for everyone. He works extremely hard. The younger guys can use that as a role model.”

Malone added: “He’s very professional around the rink, but in the locker room and the weight room, he’s probably one of the loudest and goofiest guys there is. He’s just a good teammate.”

Hakstol has coached long enough to know that each player goes through a different process of development. He’s confident that no matter how UND’s season ends, Frattin will be ready for the next level in hockey, both as a player and a person.

“There were a lot of tough things and unfair things said about him a year and a half ago,” he said. “You take the good out of it, and I think he’s really matured in all areas of his life.”


  1. Those of us that follow UND are well aware of Frattin’s story. It is great to hear of a comeback and a second chance that had to be earned. Matt made the most of his second chance OFF the ice and as a result, he is becoming the person he should be on it. Any one of us that has been to college could have ended up like him. His story is made famous by the sport he plays and where he plays it. But the choices he made to come back and face his troubles head on without taking the easy way out and to learn from the mistakes are lessons we can all take with us no matter what team we root for.

    • Agree. I also understand he had to pay the out-of-state tuition in order to come back for the second semester which also demonstrates his committment.

      • Jealousy.
        The Frattin storyis to perfect as a story of redemption for those who have no sould, sooooooo…..Let the UND hatred commence.

        Soon we will hear from the sock puppet that is “Wounded Knee” or “Marcus Reno” or whatever failed persona he is living in his mothers basement.

    • If you’re looking for a criminal look no further than the heroin shooting Nate Hagemo. Doesn’t surpirse me he was thrown in jail for heroin possesion.

    • The only thing criminal about ND is that they let 3 of them play for the goofers, allowing them to win back to back national championships!!! I guess you should stop dissing ND and start recruiting!!! Heres to another year with no goofers in the NCAA tourney cheers

      • Well, Blais didn’t recruit Grant Potulny; which lead to Minnesota aqcuiring Ryan Potulny; which then led to Danny Irman going with Potulny.. But yea it’s funny that Minnesota fans say,” How many of your players are from North Dakota?” When in reality, Minnesota captured there back to back titles with their 3 best players coming from ND, two from GF and one from Fargo

        • Counting must be a grad-level class in Nort’ Dakoduh.Take the 3 seconds necessary to look at the rosters from the b2b teams and let me know how many were from Dakoduh.

          And BTW, it wasn’t a second chance for Misdemeanor Matt. He was arrested twice. It’s still not clear how many arrests it takes to get kicked off the team at und, but we know it’s > 2.

          • well obviously with a your population dwarfing north dakota your gunna have more players to recruite therefor more players from mn playing d1 hockey. its just sad you guys are in the heart of it all and still cant recruit worth a dick….. you guys just lost to alaska anchorage last night and now have to win two straight to make the final five in your own town. God i would be embarrassed.

        • Hey MN Hockey is overrated. Get your facts straight. Grant Potolny was the only ND player to win a title with the U. Ryan P and Danny Irmen didn’t win a title. Lets talk about the 3-5 best players from those MN teams, Jonny Pohl, Jordan Leopold, Paul Martin, Keith Ballard, Matt Koalska…all MN born and bred players.

        • There are always integral players at UND from North Dakota. Geographically speaking Warroad, Roseau, Moorhead, Fergus Falls are all closer to UND than UM anyway. Lets not forget that Canada is also quite close. Closer than a lot of MN is to UMN. I never really understood this argument made by any school. To say that North Dakota is stealing players like the Parise boys from MN is arrogant as well. Their family history was at UND. It isn’t like any of these blue chippers that leave to North Dakota, Wisconsin or other schools were obligated to MN. Get real people. Start winning your recruiting wars and maybe your team can win again.

    • I agree, no surprise he was suspended from the team. But, obviously your not used to seeing anyone turn their life around for the better and you fail to understand how he was able to come back to the team a better person and teammate. I understand, your a Goofy fan.

    • ya…. getting a disorderly conduct is very criminal. durrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. the most criminal thing frattin has done in his life is rob goalies of their virginty week to week by sniping pucks of the twine and right back up there poop shoots. hey its ok they, im sure your jealous about us being number one in the country when your goofs wont even make the final five in your own town.

  2. There is enough balance, talent, goaltending and grit on this team to win a national title. Matt is just one of the sparkplugs in the V-12 engine.

  3. Oh we have a couple cake eaters to the east doggin.. I think you guys should start recruiting out-of-state.. maybe it’ll change things up a bit

  4. Matt’s actions were absolutely wrong and he deserved to be suspended from the team. Rather than taking the cowards way out and signing a pro contract and running away from the reality of his problems, he faced them and he turned his life around for the better. There are not many people who can hit bottom and climb out of the hole they dug as quickly and successfully as Matt has done. In addition, without Coach Hak’s ‘tough love’, Matt’s strength of character to turn his life around for the better and Hak’s giving him a second chance, Matt could very well have become a Hagemo in pro-hockey.
    Tyler Hirsch is another story that does not belong here.

  5. Frattin deserves the Hobey becuase hes up there in points, plays the toughest schedule and truly is a dynamic player that actually is very smart and a good person…people make mistakes but fratz didnt kill anyone lol jeez he had some liquor no big deal our society picks on the stars and frattin is deff a star

  6. Sad. Just sad. Nice story about a guy trying to work his life back into order, and he’s absolutely beaten down for it. I don’t wish ill will on anyone based on what their “team” is. I hope you haters get nothing but positive reinforcements when you face adversity due to make a few bad decisions.

  7. Nice story Mr. Miller. I wish everyone could put their allegiances down for just a moment. This story is not about a team, it is about an individual. Matt Frattin is a phenomenal hockey player, I think everyone would agree with this statement. However, I think it is uplifting to hear about an athlete rising from the ashes, in a manner of speaking, to become one of the the best college hockey players in the country. Let Frattin and his supporters just enjoy the piece, this is not about which team, state or geographical location is superior to another. Matt Frattin worked his butt of to get back to where he is, let the article speak for itself. Again, nice article Mr. Miller, very enjoyable to read this morning.

  8. Let the story be what it is. Matt simply grew up and took the opportunity to put his life back together. This isn’t about und vs um. Both teams have plenty of things to be proud of.

    UND can be proud of Frattin and UM can be proud of whatever it is they’re proud of.

    Most of all Frattin should be proud of himself with all he has accomplished. I’m looking for Frattin to be one of the top three hobey candidates at the end of the season and he’s deserving, win or not.

  9. the ONLY reason hakstool let frattin come back is because he needed him. genoway got hurt so bring back the criminal. period, plain and simple!!!!!!!

    • Can you read? Any idiot knows that Matt coming back after not playing competitive hockey for MONTHS was not going to make an immediate impact, so him coming back had nothing to do with Genoway getting hurt. I hope everyone with the negative comments towards a guy YOU DON’T EVEN KNOW someday learns what it’s like to be judged in the same way you’re all judging Matt. Way to go.

      • oh yes it did, don’t fool yourself. hackstool is the biggest hypocrite in college hockey!!! i don;t need to know him, he plays for the sue. most of them are thugs and criminals. take off you rose colored glasses!!!

        • Please provide data proving your assertion than most Sioux players are criminals.

          Oh, and it is spelled SIOUX. Spelling seems to be a probelm for you so you may cut and paste it in next time to avoid such problems.

  10. Disorderly conduct and innocent (by a jury) of driving under the influence? Hey “guest”…I’ve got one for ya, an arrest is not something you get punished for. There is an investigation that follows and then a determination of guilt. I even know that and I was raised and educated in North Dakoduh! Guilty of 1 (!) charge, thus he was given a 2nd chance. Her’s some more math for ya…Nat’l championships Sioux-7 Goofers-5 = +2 for The Fighting Sioux. ;-o

  11. Being a gopher should be a felony….and being a gopher-lover should be a hanging offense. I am no sue fan, but “MN Hockey is overrated ” has it right. All those punk-A$$ gopherhole I3itches are a bunch of cake eatin bags of gash. This kid is just fine with me, as long as he hits gophers! Time to dry clean your gold glitter hot pants and post your craigslist ad, Jay BareBall…..your hockey career is almost over, and your gonna need somethin to fall back on.

  12. Suehater, your a tea bag. Your hatred towards the Patriots of college hockey is so obvious. Its called jealousy………GO SIOUX!!! Clown, your an idiot……………

    • bis sky, you are tea bag. your hatred toward the Yankees of college hockey is so obvious. it is called jealousy……. GO GOPHERS, clown, you are an idiot….. big sky, learn how to use the English language. it is you’re not your.. i assume you have a north dakota education????

      • It takes championships to be considered the yankees. 7>5, 15>11, etc. And Michigans 9 NCAA’s are much greater than the goofs 5. Both North Dakota and Denver have more championships in the regular season and NCAA’s than Minnie. Just look at the stats and you’ll clearly see the Goofs are not the yankmes of college hockey.

  13. Well, suehater… i’m judging you right now, just like you’re doing to all the people you don’t know. way to go. I’m glad my parents raised me the right way. I bet your parents are soooo proud.

  14. I would like to say as a huge SIOUX fan I enjoy hockey at its best. We have alot of talent on our team this year and Matt is not doing it all. He is just a piece to the puzzle. I grew up in MN and watched both teams my whole life and I live in Grand Forks now. Do we like to see a good hit put on someone yes and do other teams like to see good hits put on us yes. We have great stats and that is not just from pure luck. WCHA has great teams in it and always will due to everyone picking up a stick before they can even walk. I would not say one team is the overall greatest team of all time. PS for those who don’t watch where we get our player from we visit our friends up north of the boarder MN and ND have great hockey players in them but their not the only ones to make good hockey players. Watch Omaha with Dean being the head coach you will see alot of north of the boarder guys on his team really soon and they will with some big championships because of their help. I respect all College hockey teams you never know who will come out on top.

      • Thats not called for! You must not know about great players we get from all over the world. For example Sidney Crosby came from North of the boarder and he is one of the best players in the NHL. Get to know Hockey before you say stuff like that.


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