Wisconsin scored quickly, but Minnesota State responded on its way to earning a tie with one of the nation's hottest teams.
The Mavericks (4-11-4 overall, 2-7-3 Western Collegiate Hockey Association) scored two first period goals to overcome an early 2-0 deficit, then tied the game again in the third period after the No. 3 Badgers (12-4-5, 6-2-5) had taken a 3-2 lead.
UW goalie Bernd Bruckler had 29 saves while Mankato netminder Kyle Nixon stopped 35 Wisconsin shots.
Wisconsin led off the scoring almost five minutes into the game when center Nick Licari and forward Ross Carlson assisted defender Andy Wozniewski for a goal. Only 22 seconds later, Wisconsin added another goal to the scoreboard as defender Dan Boeser took a pass from Licari and center A.J. Degenhardt.
Mankato responded with a pair of goals itself as forward David Backes scored a power play goal eight-and-a-half minutes into the game. With less than five minutes left in the period, Maverick forward Shane Joseph notched the equalizing goal with help from forward Jake Brenk and defender Lucas Fransen.
Neither team put a point on the board in a second period marred by 33 minutes in penalties, 31 of which came at the 7:17 mark when a fight resulted in four double-minor roughing penalties, plus a game disqualification to Badger sophomore defenseman Tom Sawatske who got caught in a line change and was called for leaving the bench during a fight. The penalty led to a five-minute power play for Minnesota State, but Wisconsin held the Mavericks to four shots during the sequence and Bruckler kept the score tied.
Wisconsin forward Adam Burish put UW up 3-2 in the third period after taking a pass from Wozniewski. Mankato tied the game four minutes later while both teams were short a man when Peto took a shot on goal that went past Bruckler.
Wisconsin's blue line will be short for the second game of the series Saturday night. Due to the game disqualification, Sawatske will also have to sit out the contest. The Badgers will also be missing defensemen Jeff Likens and Ryan Suter, who are playing for Team USA in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Junior Championship in Finland.
Score by period
Shots on goal by period
UW 1 - Andy Wozniewski (5) from Ross Carlson (1) and Nick Licari (4), PPG, at 4:49.
UW 2 - Dan Boeser (5) from Licari (5) and A.J. Degenhardt (4) at 5:11.
MS 1 - David Backes (9) from Brad Thompson (5) and Kyle Peto (9), PPG, at 8:27.
MS 2 - Shane Joseph (11) from Jake Brenk (6) and Lucas Fransen (5) at 15:50.
UW 3 - Adam Burish (4) from Wozniewski (5) at 4:10.
MS 3 - Peto (1) from Rob Rankin (4) and Brock Becker (7) at 8:29.
UW - Bernd Bruckler (65:00), 29 saves, 3 goals allowed.
MS - Kyle Nixon (65:00), 35, 3.