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Minnesota State completes improbable rally, sweeps No. 1 UMass

After spotting UMass a 3-0 lead, the Minnesota State men's hockey team scored six consecutive goals over the final 22 minutes of Sunday's game to pull out a come-from-behind victory and earn a sweep against the No. 1 team in the country.

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A shutout one night, a three-goal win the next.

Knowing those would be the outcomes of a two-game season-opening series between No. 5-ranked Minnesota State University and No. 1-ranked University of Massachusetts -- the first home games for the Minutemen since winning their first national championship last spring -- how many college hockey observers would have guessed MSU would come out on the good side of those results?

In impressive fashion, Minnesota State hit the road for its first two games of the 2021-22 season -- five and a half months after making its first-ever Frozen Four appearance -- and took two games from the Minutemen in convincing fashion.

After Dryden McKay and the Mavericks' defense shut down and shut out UMass on Saturday night, the Mavericks' offense took over in the third period on Sunday. After falling behind 3-0, the Mavericks (2-0-0 overall) reeled off six consecutive goals, including five in the third period, to pull out a 6-3 victory against the Minutemen at Mullins Center.

The scoreboard and the momentum were all in UMass' favor late in the second period, as it built a 3-0 lead.

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Nathan Smith

But Nathan Smith -- the CCHA Preseason Player of the Year -- started the momentum swing and got the Mavericks on the board at a key point in the game. Smith scored his first goal of the season with 1:12 to go in the second period, giving MSU some life and causing the Minutemen some concern heading into the final 20 minutes.

That concern compounded for UMass in the closing period, as Smith scored again 4:28 into the third to pull MSU within 3-2. With UMass still reeling from Smith's score, sophomore center Ondrej Pavel tallied his first goal of the season on the ensuing shift, just 15 seconds later, tying the score 3-3.

That's how the score remained until midway through the period, when MSU's depth continued to show and it struck three times in quick succession. Sophomore defenseman Jake Livingstone scored his first of the year -- which held up as the game winner -- at the 10:14 mark, then just 63 seconds later Julian Napravnik scored to make it 5-3 MSU. The goal was the second of the weekend for the forward from Bad Nauheim, Germany, who was the WCHA Offensive Player of the Year last season.

For good measure, junior center Brendan Furry added an insurance goal at the 13:11 mark to make it 6-3 and wrap up a string of three Mavericks' goals in a span of 2 minutes, 57 seconds.

The Mavericks outshot the Minutemen nearly 2-to-1 in the game. MSU put 45 shots on goal, while UMass had 23. The Mavericks had a 16-4 advantage in the third period as they rallied, then pulled away for the win.

MSU can now turn its attention to its home openers, scheduled for Friday (7:07 p.m.) and Saturday (6:07 p.m.) at Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center. The Mavericks will host the current No. 2-ranked team in the country, St. Cloud State, which swept Division I newcomer and MSU's CCHA rival University of St. Thomas this weekend. SCSU beat the Tommies 12-2 on Saturday and 2-0 on Sunday.

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It's possible St. Cloud State could be the new No. 1 team in the country this week, which would mean a second consecutive weekend series for MSU against the nation's top-ranked team.

MSU 6, UMASS 3

MSU 0-1-5 — 6

UMass 2-1-0 — 3

Shots on goal — MSU 14-15-16—45, UMass 8-11-4—23. Goalies — MSU, Dryden McKay (W, 2-0-0; 23 shots-20 saves); UMass, Matt Murray (L, 0-2-0; 45 shots-39 saves). Power-play opportunities — MSU, 0-for-5; UMass 0-for-5. Penalties — MSU, 5-10 minutes; UMass 5-10 minutes.

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