This weekend is the NCAA Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minnesota. Leading up to this weekend's events, we're chatting with one player from each of the teams involved. Look for interviews through Thursday. Today, it's Matt Frattin of the North Dakota Fighting Sioux.
There was a time when there was serious doubt about whether North Dakota forward Matt Frattin would ever play for the Fighting Sioux again.
Frattin, a 2007 draft pick by the Toronto Maple Leafs, was arrested in July of 2009 along with Washington Capitals draft pick Joe Finley on charges of disorderly conduct, after a night of throwing items such as a kitchen table, plates and a lawnmower onto a street in Grand Forks.
Weeks later, Frattin was charged with driving under the influence and dismissed from the team.
Despite the chance to go pro at that point and sign with the Leafs, Frattin chose instead to return to North Dakota, and was later reinstated to the team that December.
"I didn't want to leave North Dakota with the reputation that I was leaving it with," said Frattin. "It was more I just wanted to go back and prove myself to my teammates and my coaches and the fans here at North Dakota. I think the biggest thing was probably the class that I came in with. We're all so close and if you had an opportunity to have another year and a half or two years with them you might as well take it before you go to be professional."
Now in his senior season, Frattin leads the nation with 36 goals and was named one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, given to the top men's college hockey player. On Thursday, Frattin and the Fighting Sioux will take on the University of Michigan in the first Frozen Four semifinal at 8:30 p.m. ET inside Xcel Energy Center.
We spoke with Frattin last week about the upcoming game with Michigan, his phenomenal season and a prank he played on Fighting Sioux head coach Dave Hakstol. Enjoy.
Q. I hear you're a big prankster…
FRATTIN: I don't know who's been labeling me as a prankster.
That's what I'm hearing.
I'm more of a ball-buster, if something.
OK then, what's the best prank a teammate has pulled this season?
There's been guys that take one of the freshman, all of his clothes and everything, his clothes locker and tape it together with a couple rolls of tape. Putting full cups of water underneath a guy's helmet, so when they take it out of their stalls they get poured water all on top of them.
This is a kind of expensive prank, but you take a couple of the guy's sticks and you cut them where the flex point is and cut maybe half so they don't notice, so they shoot the puck and they're going through about five sticks through five shots, or maybe two.
I did one on my coach this year.
He always tries to score goals when we have shootouts and he takes pride in that. He doesn't put grip on his stick, and we have a beater, so one day I just absolutely layered it on the grip.
So as soon as he grabs his stick his gloves actually just stick to it so he can't slide it at all. I got my coach pretty good on that one.
Were there a couple extra laps for you after practice or did he not find out it was you?
No, but I think he knew subconsciously.
Your production has skyrocketed this season. You're leading the nation in goals. What's the difference between now and earlier in your career?
I think it's just the opportunity you get. This year I've been playing on the first line, and the top two lines, and the top power play unit and playing the penalty kill; so the more you're on the ice, the more opportunities you get, the better opportunities you have to put up offensive points. And since I've got those opportunities I've been running with it.
How have your linemates Evan Trupp and Brad Malone helped in your success this season?
We're been put together for about a year and a half now. We just feed off each other really good on and off the ice. Trupp's probably one of the best playmakers in the country and we've got some good chemistry; he always finds me in the soft spots, so we feed off each other good. And Brad Malone's just a natural power forward that can run around banging the bodies a bit, playing the little physical game that opens ice for our whole line.
What were you thinking when you saw Trupp carry the puck his blade through the zone in the Final Five semifinal game?
I was the high guy there and I just let him do what he usually does, and he tried to get a shot on net there and kind of missed, but he still regained the puck. That's just the creative side that he has, he's always thinking outside of the box on what he can do to back off defenders.
I'm sure you've seem him do that in practice, but did you ever expect him to do that trick during an actual game?
You can never know what the guy's going to do. I think he had a move last Final Five too where he picked it up, put it over the defender and then whacked it in on a shot on net. Maybe he just pulls it out in big games like the Final Five?
What would winning the Hobey Baker Award mean to you?
It's obviously an honor, it's a great individual year I've been having, but it's more of a team goal. Our team is just so [deep] and it just symbolizes how good our team has been doing. Even Aaron Dell has been standing on his head all year; kind of surprised he didn't make the top 10, but he's definitely our backbone for our team. And Chay Genoway's another guy that our whole team feeds off of. We've got a lot of leaders on our team, it just I guess I got individually awarded for our team's success.
You guys have had a pretty good rivalry with Denver. How enjoyable was it to beat them 6-1 in the Midwest Regional Final after needing two overtimes in the Final Five title game?
Yeah, definitely. We built up a rivalry for the four years that I've been here. It's definitely just a good feeling to beat anybody in those kind of games, but it kind of puts an extra stamp on the feeling when you beat Denver.
Looking ahead to Michigan … as you begin your preparation for the game, what do you know about the Wolverines at this point?
I haven't played them in the four years that I've been here, but they've got a lot of skill up front that we're aware of and they've got a lot of big defensemen that can skate just like our defensemen can. It's probably going to be a big skill game up front, big physical game from our defensemen.
How have you approached these last few weeks knowing your college career is coming to an end?
I've kind of had that mindset in the last couple weeks. Every game we've been playing for the last two weeks has been single elimination for us, even though in the Broadmoor or the WCHA Final Five, we kind of knew we were going to make the NCAA [tournament], but just kind of had the mind frame that if we lose, we're done. But yeah, this is my last couple weeks of practicing, last weekend of games, so I'll just kind of take everything in and every time I go on the ice and play like I always play.
Coming up tomorrow, T.J. Tynan of Notre Dame.