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Mavs start season in top 5, Gerads inks pro deal, Paddington honored by WCHA

The Minnesota State University men's hockey team reached the Frozen Four last season. Voters across the country are convinced the Mavericks will be among the best teams in college hockey once again, as MSU is ranked No. 5 in the first national poll of the season.

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Minnesota State University junior forward Nathan Smith is the CCHA Preseason Player of the Year and a big reason why the Mavericks are ranked No. 5 in the first USCHO.com Division I national poll of the 2021-22 season. Contributed photo / Minnesota State University athletics

The Minnesota State University men's hockey team has earned a lot of respect within its own conference in recent seasons.

It earned a lot of respect nation-wide last season, beating Quinnipiac and the University of Minnesota en route to the program's first-ever Frozen Four appearance, where it held a lead midway through the third period of a national semifinal game before St. Cloud State rallied in the final minute for a one-goal victory.

With relatively low roster turnover -- and the addition of a talented freshman class, as well as the addition of four players through the NCAA transfer portal -- voters across the country expect the Mavericks will just as formidable this season as they were a year ago.

Minnesota State received one first-place vote in the first USCHO.com Division I national poll of the season -- one of eight teams to receive at least one first-place vote. The Mavericks (22-5-1 last season) are ranked No. 5 in the USCHO poll.

The University of Massachusetts is No. 1. The defending national champions are also the first opponent of the season for the Mavericks, who are set to play a two-game series at Amherst on Saturday (6:30 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.). Those games can be livestreamed for no charge by visiting CollegeSportsLive.com/HockeyEast .

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St. Cloud State -- MSU's opponent in its home opening series Oct. 8-9 at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center -- is ranked No. 2, followed by Michigan at No. 3 and Minnesota at No. 4. The top 10 is completed by No. 6 Minnesota Duluth, No. 7 Boston College, No. 8 North Dakota, No. 9 Quinnipiac and No. 10 Boston University. The Mavericks will meet either Michigan or UMD in the Ice Breaker, at Duluth, on Oct. 15-16.

Bemidji State is the only other CCHA team in the top 20; the Beavers came in at No. 14.

CCHA teams Michigan Tech, Lake Superior State, Bowling Green and Northern Michigan also received votes.

Led by CCHA Preseason Player of the Year Nathan Smith, a junior forward, the Mavericks were picked by the league's coaches as the favorite to win the regular-season championship this season.

Gerads signs pro deal

Dallas Gerads was a leader at both ends of the ice for Minnesota State for four seasons, a consistent presence for the Mavericks from year to year and game to game.

Now, the Blaine native is the latest former Maverick to sign a pro contract. Gerads has signed with the Greenville (S.C.) Swamp Rabbits of the ECHL, the club announced Monday.

Greenville is an affiliate of the AHL's Charlotte Checkers and the NHL's Florida Panthers.

Gerads was a three-time WCHA All-Academic Team selection and a two-time WCHA Scholar Athlete. He served as an alternate captain last year as a senior, helping the Mavericks reach the Frozen Four for the first time in program history. He played in 125 games for MSU, scored 36 goals and tallied 79 career points, including 19 total points last season.

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Gerads was member of four WCHA regular-season championship teams, one WCHA postseason tournament championship team and was a member of the 2020-21 team that captured the NCAA West Regional and advanced to the NCAA Frozen Four.

Greenville is scheduled to open its season Oct. 23 at the South Carolina Stingrays.

MSU's Paddington is WCHA Rookie of the Week

Alexis Paddington had an impressive start to her MSU career and the WCHA has recognized the Mavericks' freshman's performance.

Paddington, a forward from Thunder Bay, Ontario, assisted on two goals in her first college game, a 3-0 MSU victory at Merrimack College (North Andover, Mass.) on Friday. She added another assist Saturday as MSU swept the season-opening series with a 9-3 win against Merrimack.

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Alexis Paddington, Minnesota State

Paddington came to MSU after recording 261 points (156 goals, 105 assists) in 150 games for the Thunder Bay Queens of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association. She's part of a small freshman class for the Mavericks this season, with just four first-year players joining the team.

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MSU hosts WCHA and national power Minnesota Duluth on Friday (6:01 p.m.) and Saturday (3:01 p.m.) at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center.

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