MSU MHock vs UND 2

Reggie Lutz (16) of Minnesota State watches his shot go up and over the head of North Dakota goalie Adam Scheel in the second period of Friday’s game. The Mavericks fought back from a 4-2 deficit in a 4-4 tie.

Nathan Smith’s debut for the Minnesota State men’s hockey team had to wait a couple of games due to an ankle injury.

But the freshman forward from Florida, now healthy, certainly came to play on Friday night.

In his first collegiate game Smith, a Winnipeg Jets draft pick from Hudson, Florida, had a goal and three assists in the No. 2 Mavericks’ fast-paced, entertaining 4-4 overtime tie with an old rival, No. 16 North Dakota.

“For a first game, you couldn’t ask for it to go any better — besides getting a win,” Smith said.

Smith had a hand in all four of MSU’s goals, scoring the Mavericks’ third goal and assisting on junior defenseman Connor Mackey’s game-tying goal at 6:15 of the third period. The Mavericks trailed 4-2 with 6 1/2 minutes remaining in the second period.

“He’s a really skilled player,” Mackey said of Smith. “If you get open, he’s going to find you. He’s a smart, intelligent player, and he got rewarded for it tonight.”

The game, played before a Mankato Civic Center crowd of 4,575, marked the first time the Fighting Hawks had played in Mankato since the 2012-13 season, the last year of the old WCHA.

Freshman Lucas Sowder, who is also from the Tampa, Florida, area and had an impressive, three-point series a week ago against Arizona State, continued his good start to the season with a goal and two assists. Edwin Hookenson also scored for the Mavericks.

The Mavericks’ Florida connection got things started, scoring at 2:38 of the first period, with Sowder finishing off a set-up from Smith with a backhander at the right post. Junior Walker Duehr, who was also on that line, had the other assist.

“I thought that line was our most effective line all night. ... ” coach Mike Hastings said. “You like that they can play with pace together.”

The Fighting Hawks came back and scored three consecutive goals to take a two-goal lead by the 2:44 mark of the second period.

Westin Michaud tied the game on a power-play goal with 21 seconds remaining in the first period, and Harrison Blaisdell put UND up 2-1 just 16 seconds into the second after MSU’s Julian Napravnik was checked off the puck in the MSU zone.

About 2 1/2 minutes later, the Fighting Hawks scored again, as Jackson Keane went to the net all alone and tipped in Andre Peski’s pass, making it 3-1.

That goal prompted Hastings to use his timeout.

“I actually thought they were harder than we were,” Hastings said of the Fighting Hawks’ second-period burst. “You can make the game harder if you’re making guys go through you all night. And I thought we started getting off checks and we were getting beat off walls. And I thought they gained energy and momentum from it, and they scored a couple of goals because of it.”

Things evened out after that, though, and Minnesota State pulled within a goal at 5:18 when Hookenson’s innocent shot from the point deflected into the goal off a UND defender’s stick. Sowder and Smith assisted.

North Dakota went ahead by two goals again at 13:27, when Dixon Bowen took advantage of some tired MSU legs on an extended shift.

But 88 seconds later, Smith made a nifty move around a defender and then ripped a wrist shot past goalie Adam Scheel from the hash marks.

“Good hockey player,” Hastings said of Smith. “Comes to the rink every day with a smile on his face. ... That goal that he scored was a pretty special goal. Great individual effort and a great finish.”

Mackey capped the comeback in the third period, taking the puck down to the goal line where he fired a short-side shot into a puck-sized space over Scheel’s right shoulder.

“One thing I liked about Connor is he kept his feet moving,” Hastings said. “He didn’t just throw a puck; he made a play. You want guys to be comfortable trying to make a play even if they’re at the blue line. … Connor’s comfortable with the puck, and we’re comfortable with him having it.”

North Dakota outshot Minnesota State 27-24. Mavericks goalie Dryden McKay made 23 saves, one in overtime. Each team had a power play in overtime.

Hastings said he and North Dakota coach Brad Berry were interested in playing an extra 3-on-3 overtime, but NCAA rules prohibit it outside of conference play.

Minnesota State (2-0-1) and North Dakota play again at 6:07 p.m. Saturday.

Follow Shane Frederick on Twitter @puckato

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