Many words come to Mike Hastings' mind when asked about Dallas Gerads.
But if Hastings, the ninth-year head coach of the Minnesota State University men's hockey team, had to boil all of those words down to one, he knows exactly which word he'd choose.
"The one word that comes to mind for me is 'selfless,'" Hastings said of Gerads, a 24-year-old senior forward from Blaine. "He wants his, don't get me wrong. He wants his ice time, wants his opportunities, but he's willing to do the work to get it."
Perseverance could be another word to describe Gerads, who worked his way up through the junior hockey ranks before receiving and accepting an offer to play at Minnesota State.
That offer came in March of 2016, as Gerads was winding down his first season with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL. A year prior to that, he was playing for Rio Grande Valley of the NAHL, in the small border town of Hidalgo, Texas, nearly as far south as he could get in the United States.
Just as he has with the Mavericks, Gerads embraced that opportunity to play in Texas, putting up 31 points in 59 games. He then spent two years in Dubuque, recording 69 points in 109 games, before arriving in Mankato as a freshman in the fall of 2017.
"He's learned from other (leaders) before him, and in my opinion it's a family trait, but he's been about as grounded of a human being as I've had walk in here as a freshman," Hastings said. "He didn't expect anything to be given to him. He's earned everything he's gotten."
Hastings and the Mavericks coaches aren't the only ones who have noticed Gerads' work ethic and business-like approach to the daily grind of being a Division I hockey player and a two-time WCHA All-Academic Team member.
Gerads' teammates have noticed, too, and rewarded him this year by voting him an alternate captain. He joins alternate captains Jack McNeely and Jared Spooner, and captain Riese Zmolek as the team's leadership group.
"It's definitely a great honor," Gerads said. "It's an honor to be a captain here. I've learned a lot from past captains, CJ (Suess), (Nick) Rivera, Marc (Michaelis) and (Edwin) Hookenson. I just try to show up every single day, work as hard as I can and try leading by doing the right things, just setting the tone and the example."
On and off the ice, Hastings' description of Gerads as "selfless" is apt. He has played four of five games this season on a line with fellow seniors Jared Spooner and Walker Duehr, a trio that has been primarily tasked with shutting down the opponents' top six forwards, though Gerads can provide offense, too. He has a goal and an assist through five games, giving him 62 points in 102 career games at MSU. His line will likely be charged with stopping Northern Michigan's top two lines this weekend when the No. 5-ranked Mavericks (3-1-1) open WCHA play in Marquette against the Wildcats (2-2-0).
"It's definitely been different this season, with only playing five games through Christmas," the 5-feet-10, 195-pound left-shot winger said. "I like the way our team is playing, I like where we're at.
"We faced some adversity in the first half with not playing games, and within the games we played, but I like where we're at and where we're headed."
Wherever the Mavericks end up this season, it'll be due in large part to Gerads' leadership and direction.
"He's a really good teammate because he's one of the first guys who will speak up or act in a way on the rink to support his teammates," Hastings said. "He understands that, as a guy wearing a badge in our program, it's not just backing teammates up when they're on the rink, it's supporting them off it.
"He’s also a guy who stands and does the work, whether it’s in the weight room, the classroom or at the rink, he puts an honest day’s work in. Those are qualities that as a leader, if I’m someone in that locker room, I'm willing to follow him because I know he’s got my back and I’m going to have his."