Two hard-hitting equal-strength goals and a power-play strike put Minnesota (6-4, 3-0-0-1) in command in the first period.
Mason Nevers’ shot was wide right, but bounced off the back board to Matthew Nise, who tied it into Rowe from the right side to give the Gophers a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, Aaron Hughlen chipped two checks, but his opening shot was blocked and flew into the air. When he came under the snow, he drove it past Rowe.
Jax Nelson scored on a power-play rebound for a 3–0 lead, and it looked like Minnesota was out of the race.
The only downside for the Gophers in the opening round was losing Mike Richter award-winning goalkeeper Jack LaFontaine with a right leg injury in the final two minutes. UW’s Brock Caufield tied his right skate with LaFontaine on the drive for the net, and the goalkeeper needed assistance in the Minnesota locker room.
Justin Close briefly made his first appearance of the season replacing LaFontaine, returning for the start of the second period and ending the game with 34 saves.
first period: M – Nise 4 (Never, Johnson), 6:12; Hugglen 2, 8:09; Nelson 2 (Nice, Meyers), 14:56 (pp.). a punishment: Martin, W., 13:57; McLaughlin, M, 19:00.