Sioux Forward Produces Under the Radar
by Timothy Boger/CHN Reporter
Matt Frattin has undoubtedly been the most talked-about player for North Dakota this season.
And rightly so. His 60 points are second in the nation. He has 36 goals while no other player in Division I has eclipsed 30. He was recently named CHN's Player of the Year, and is a Hobey Baker Award finalist. And his return from a suspension and subsequent emergence as an NHL-ready power forward, has sparked chatter everywhere.
But Corban Knight is just one player who has skated in the shadow of Frattin all year long. And Knight has more than accepted that.
“Frattin’s having one of those storybook years,” the sophomore forward said. “Taking a back seat to that guy – I have no problem with it.”
Knight wasn’t on an all-conference team, but his 44 points (14 goals, 30 assists) sure made the case for it. His linemate Jason Gregoire — who made the WCHA’s second team — saw Knight’s breakout season firsthand.
“We knew he was going to have to step up, and he certainly did that,” Gregoire said. “He doesn’t always get the recognition that he deserves. I see a lot of topics that it might be one of the quietest, best seasons of a Sioux player in a while. He’s got over 40 points, so the season he’s having is unbelievable. He’s doing more than expected.”
Gregoire thought that the most important aspects of Knight’s play are things that fly below the radar, but they’ve been a huge part of the success and chemistry of the second line of the Fighting Sioux.
“He makes some unbelievable passes. I think he’s our best faceoff man … It kind of goes unnoticed, but it certainly helps us in the long run,” he said.
Last season, Knight put up just 6 goals and 7 assists while roaming between lines looking for a good fit. But with the graduation of senior center Chris VandeVelde came the opportunity to anchor a line made up of Gregoire and Brett Hextall, another junior.
Knight was ready to answer the call when the coaching staff made him a mainstay in North Dakota’s top two lines.
“It’s just one of those things where having a good offseason and working really hard to get better in certain areas paid off,” he said. “Coming in, we had some pretty key guys leave, so there were a couple spots that were open. I was fortunate enough to be put in one of those spots by coach, and it was a good opportunity.”
He’s taken the opportunity and ran with it. Knight has been a critical component of the second line now, sparking successful seasons for both of his wings — Gregoire enters the Frozen Four with 43 points and Hextall with 29. And the two have returned the favor.
“I think a lot of the credit has to go to my linemates,” Knight said. “Gregs and Hexy have been my linemates for a good chunk of the year. They make my job pretty easy on a nightly basis.”
Knight has usually played well with or without them in the lineup, but with the loss of Gregoire in certain games this season came a loss of consistency. Knight went without a point at the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul a few weeks ago when Gregoire went down with an injury, and was on-and-off during Gregoire’s extended injury stint back in January.
When he returned for their Midwest Regional playoff games last weekend in Green Bay, Knight found himself in the scoring column once again, with a goal and an assist in a 6-0 defeat of Rennselaer. But there’s more to that line’s success than specifically scoring goals.
“You look at [Gregoire] and he’s one of the top players in the country I think, and I think a lot of people think that — especially in the WCHA,” Knight said. “Offensively it helps a lot, but defensively he helps out a lot too because he’s so reliable and he’s so consistent.”
That consistency will have to continue. With teams focused on containing Frattin and his linemates, it’ll be the other lines, like Knight’s, that have to step up and do the little things right.
“We’re going to need that going forward here,” said Gregoire.