After Minnesota State men’s hockey player Dallas Gerads’ senior season at Blaine, he wasn’t sure about the next step.
He loved hockey and wanted to keep playing, but he wasn’t sure where he fit on the college hockey hierarchy. More specifically, was he good enough to play at the Division l level?
Not knowing what he wanted to study in school, Gerads decided to take a chance, heading down to Hidalgo, Texas, home of the North American Hockey League’s Rio Grande Valley Killer Bees, where he played a handful of games after his senior season.
“I didn’t really know anything about junior hockey, but I thought it’d be cool to give it a try,” Gerads said.
It turns out that was a really good decision.
Nearly seven years later, Gerads isn’t just playing college hockey — he’s an alternate captain on one of the best teams in the country.
“Sometimes, the fear of not being good enough happens,” MSU coach Mike Hastings said. “I just think through his hard work and his mindset, he’s overcome a lot of different things.
“Whether that’s physical stature, or a couple of things that somebody first saw, whether that was in the NAHL or United States Hockey League. Right now — just come watch us play, because he’s an effective piece every game.”
After the short stint at Rio Grande Valley, Gerads returned there the next season and scored 20 goals. That was enough to get him drafted by the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints, where he scored 69 points in 114 games over the next two seasons.
Despite his success in the USHL, Hastings said Gerads arrived in Mankato as one of the most grounded freshmen he’s ever had. Gerads knew nothing would be given to him at MSU, so he did what he’s always done — worked.
Off the ice, he put in the time to become a better skater and get stronger. On the ice, Gerads embraced doing things some players prefer not to do.
“When you have the puck, that’s fun ... when you’ve got to go get it from somebody or you’ve got to stop somebody from getting it to your end ... that’s not quite as fun,” Hastings said. “He’s honest in his commitment on both sides of that game. He plays as excited or as hard, whether he has the puck or he doesn’t. That’s hard to find.”
As a freshman, Gerads finished with 14 points in 27 games. In his sophomore and junior seasons, he was seventh on the team in points each year, despite playing on teams with immensely skilled forwards. So far this season, he’s tied for sixth on the team with seven points.
In his career, Gerads has 67 points in 107 games and is plus-33.
“I’m not very flashy, obviously,” Gerads said. “But one of the things (I can control) is that I never get outworked. ... They might be more skilled than me or more talented, but I’m going to make sure I outwork you.”
Stylistically, at 5-foot-10, 195 pounds, Gerads is physical in a way that makes him extremely difficult to play against. He finishes every check, relentlessly fights for pucks and constantly gets under opponents’ skin.
And he’s done so while spending only 53 minutes in the penalty box in his career.
Those things make him a great defensive player, but as the numbers indicate, Gerads has also developed quite the offensive game. His squat build and strong lower-half make him extremely difficult to knock off the puck.
When it comes to scoring, Gerads knows where to go.
“He’s OK playing in between the hash marks and paint. If you started putting together the distance of all his goals combined, they’re not getting to the dot,” Hastings said with a laugh. “He goes to that area and pays a price to score goals.”
The work ethic and mentality that Gerads brings to the rink each day haven’t just been noticed by Hastings. His teammates also took notice, voting to make him a captain prior to the season.
He doesn’t just lead by example from a hockey standpoint. Gerads is a two-time WCHA All-Academic selection, and was a WCHA Scholar-Athlete last season. He also works a job during the season.
“He’s never satisfied ... he just has a tendency to always want to keep getting a little bit more,” Hastings said. “My guess would be, wherever Dallas Gerads goes, whether it’s a pro roster or the working world, he’s going to deliver a little bit more than you expect.”
The Mavericks (9-1-1, 6-0) play at 4:07 p.m. Friday at Bemidji State.
Follow Kevin Dudley on Twitter @Dudley7Kevin.