November 8, 2010 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Frattin's Troubles are Only for Opponents Now

North Dakota Senior Chases Demons to Return to Top of Game

by Joseph Edwards/CHN Writer

One year ago, Matt Frattin wasn’t where he was supposed to be.

Instead of doing homework, going to class, and practicing with his Sioux teammates in Grand Forks, Frattin was in Canada, skating with his former junior team. On that Edmonton ice, he worked on his game, and worked out some personal demons — exercising and exorcising, as it were.

After his sophomore season in which he scored 13 goals and 25 points in 42 games, Frattin found himself in trouble. First, he was arrested and suspended for an incident in which he and former Sioux player Joe Finley threw various objects from a friends’ house into the street. Soon thereafter, he was arrested again, this time on a charge of driving under the influence (which he was later found not guilty of). Both arrests were enough for North Dakota coach Dave Hakstol to remove Frattin from the Sioux roster.

According to Frattin, Hakstol told him to take some time off and take care of things, that there were more important things going on than hockey.

“Coach told me that my personal life was more important,” Frattin said. “There were some off-ice issues, more of a personal issue to take care of.”

There were options for the 6-foot, 206-pound forward. As a fourth-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 2007, Frattin could always go pro; he could round out his game in juniors and give up his remaing eligibility, or he could keep in mind that fact Hakstol also left the door open for a return to North Dakota — provided he ironed out his issues.

Fortunately, for the Sioux, Frattin chose the latter.

“I asked myself, ‘Do I want to go back? What’s the point?’” he said. “I decided that my best bet was to go back. I have a lot of friends here, and I’ve got to cherish them, because when this is all over, I’ve got to grow up.

“It was one step at a time. It was kind of a little wake-up call. It was needed. I wouldn’t regret any decision I’ve made since I came back. I kept in contact with some of the guys, they were in season and I checked in on how they were doing.”

More importantly, Hakstol kept tabs on Frattin, an on-going conversation which led the coach to believe his former player had gotten a handle on things.

Eight months after being kicked off the team, Frattin came back in 2010, mid-season to his teammates; but it wasn’t easy. They sat at 9-6-3, fifth in the country and sixth in the WCHA at 6-6-2. His first game back was the first competitive hockey he’d played in eight months, and as a self-decribed ‘slow starter,’ he went goalless from January 2nd to Febuary 12th — a span that saw the Sioux go 4-5-2 (2-4-1 WCHA).

“It took me a little while to get back in,” he laughed. “It was a warm welcome, I felt like I fit right in [in the locker room]. I had to get my timing back — I hadn’t played with them since we lost to New Hampshire in the NCAAs [the season before].”

Once he did, however, Frattin played the role of game-changer. Two goals against St. Cloud State turned into an avalanche: Two points versus Minnesota-Duluth, four points at Colorado College — five goals and eight points to close out the final eight games of the Sioux’ regular season. Frattin’s hot streak vaulted the Sioux to 20-12-15, and a No. 5 ranking.

And then came the postseason. The WCHA’s fourth-seed, North Dakota took three games to dispatch Minnesota, with Frattin's four goals leading the way. The quarterfinal matchup game against Denver included two helpers. Almost fittingly, Frattin scored the empty-netter to clinch the WCHA title against St. Cloud.

Another tally in North Dakota’s first round loss to Yale in the NCAAs brought his total to 11 goals and five assists over 24 games, 16 of those points coming in the final 13 games on the year.

If the rest of the NCAA Division I field were relieved at not having to face Frattin in the tournament, their nerves have already been renewed: 10 games into the 2010-11 season, Frattin has eight goals and a pair of assists. He’s third nationally in goals, second in power-play tallies (4) and has two game-winners and a shorthanded goal for the 10th-ranked Sioux.

In the opening weekend of WCHA play, he potted a hat trick and added two more points in North Dakota’s series against Bemidji State, garnering WCHA Player of the Week status on October 19th.

Being back with the team has suited him well, obviously.

“I came into this season in shape,” he said. “I’ve been playing my own game with confidence. Our depth is unbelievable, we’re all good players. Practice-wise, you need to be competitive, each one us needs to compete to stay in the lineup.”

Twenty-five months after being removed from the Sioux roster, there’s plenty of places that Matt Frattin could have gone, but in the end, there’s only one place where he wanted to be — and it certainly shows.

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