December 29, 2010 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Easy Riders

North Dakota Trio Leading Sioux to the Top

by Justin Magill/CHN Reporter

If North Dakota goes on one of its late-season runs, it will run away with the MacNaughton Cup with ease and cruise into the WCHA playoffs with the top seed this time around.

One way the Sioux might reach that goal is the experience and play of an all-senior forward line of Brad Malone, Evan Trupp and Matt Frattin. The trio has been dubbed by Grand Forks media members as the "Pony Express."

"I'm not a real fan of the name," Malone said. "I don't think we need to have a nickname. Our play should kind of speak for itself."

Nevertheless, the nickname has spread quickly and, at times, the Sioux's top line often gets some friendly grief from teammates. But their production has allowed them to stop there.

Through 20 games, Frattin leads the nation in goals (17) and leads UND with 25 points. His production on the power play has made the Sioux one of the scariest teams with the man advantage with six goals.

"I have been playing the point this season and have had the chance to get a lot of points that way," Frattin said. "When you have a big kid like Malone in front of the net, you can get a lot of points, whether it's a goal or an assist by throwing it at the net and him (Malone) tipping it in."

For Trupp, Frattin doesn't need much help getting the puck into the net.

"Frat (Frattin), he just has a shot that goalies hate," he said.

His linemates have chipped in nicely on offense. Malone has (5-11-16) and Trupp (7-8-15) have helped in making the line one of the strongest in the WCHA.

What makes the line so special, especially in college hockey, is it has three players that elected to stay on board until graduation and not head for the professional ranks.

"It's a fun place to be and a great program to play for," Trupp said. "When guys have the tough decision of leaving for the pros or staying here for their final year, often times they stay because we are like a close family. For being on a team that spends a lot of time together anyways, we find ourselves hanging out with each other in the offseason as well."

With the experience, Malone, Trupp and Frattin have seen it all and know how to handle just about every situation the game has to offer. There are no surprises, nothing that will strike fear into them and so far that has been the case with a 13-5-2 (11-3-0 WCHA) record.

"They all have the ability to be successful in any situation on the ice," Sioux coach Dave Hakstol said. "They have seen just about everything and know exactly what to do. Brad and Matt were drafted and Evan will get a shot, too, but all of them will be successful at the next level because of the experience they had here."

All three came on board in the same season and ironically have become good, if not, best friends since arriving on campus. The bond they have with each other has impacted not only their play individually, but the team.

"There is just a lot of chemistry, but it takes a lot of time to build it and make it work," Malone said. "Familiarity you build over the years is something that has just happened."

"(We) Just know each others tendencies," Trupp added. "You play with two of your best friends every day, a relationship will be made on the ice that is going to help your team."

Aforementioned, Frattin is off to a start that has made him the nations top goal scorer. He probably would not be if it wasn't for his friends helping him on the rink as the three offer just about everything a top line needs to have.

Standing 6-2, Malone is a physical center, who can handle the gritty play in front of the net, the corners and probably the oppositions imposing figure if need be.

Frattin delivers the scorers touch, lighting the lamp on a regular basis, while Trupp is the sure-handed playmaker, getting the puck to his pals in the right place, the right time for a perfect chance to put points on the board.

"We each bring something different to the table," Frattin said. "Brad brings that power forward mentality with his physical play, Evan is gifted with the mind to be one step ahead of everyone and I have been able to score some goals. All of us are just comfortable with each other."

One point earlier in the season, Hakstol split the three up. Once he got them back together, it has been smooth sailing for the Sioux, which now owns the No. 3 ranking in the country.

"There was a little bit of inconsistency," Hakstol said. "We decided to break them up for four or five games, but once we put them back, they have gone on a real solid streak."

Coincidently, the streak comes at a time when UND takes a small break from classes and games. Relaxes at home for the holidays and returns rejuvenated for the famous second-half run that propels the Sioux near the top of the polls.

Right now, UND is there and if its best line continues to excel, two trips to St. Paul for the postseason is in the conversation.

Come April, the streets near the Xcel Energy Center, the site of the 2011 Frozen Four, may not be littered with the green of the Minnesota Wild, nor of the old North Stars. With Malone, Trupp and Frattin playing at their current level, it could be kelly green of the Sioux fans.

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