Japan relied on its speed and conditioning to overwhelm Austria 6-1 in its first game of the Final Olympic Qualification Group D.
Veteran Hanae Kubo scored a a hat trick for Japan which is bidding to qualify for its third Olympics following Nagano and Sochi.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start but were able to find our rhythm as the game progressed,” Japan coach Takeshi Yamanaka said. “This was a good way to start the tournament and will give us a lot of confidence going forward.”
Kubo put Japan ahead early in the first period but Austria equalized on a goal by captain Esther Kantor in the final minute of the opening frame.
It was all Japan after that. Shiori Koike widening the lead just under three minutes into the second period and Kubo put Japan firmly in control with her second goal of the night midway through the period.
Shoko Ono put the game out of reach at 4-1 when she deflected a centering pass by Chiho Osawa four minutes into the third period.
Kubo completed her hat trick on a powerplay with with 3:10 remaining and Akane Hosoyamada completed the rout late in the third.
“I had a wide-open net and it was just a question of tapping it in,” Kubo said of her third goal. “I give a lot of credit to my teammates who got me the puck.”
One team in Group D will qualify for the Pyeongchang Olympics. Germany beat France 3-2 in Thursday’s first game.
Manuela Anwander and Andrea Lanzl scored in the shootout for Germany after Marie Delarbre tallied in the final minute of regulation to tie the game at 2-2.
Eight nations will play in the women’s tournament at the 2018 Games. The United States, Canada, Finland, Russia and Sweden have already secured places, along with Korea which earns a spot as the host nation.
Japan will France in its next game on Saturday while Germany takes on Austria.