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U.S. OLYMPIC WOMEN'S ICE HOCKEY TEAM CRUISES PAST JAPAN, 10-0

NAGANO, Japan (February 12) -- A high-powered offense helped the 1998 U.S. Olympic Women's Ice Hockey Team shut-out tournament host Japan, 10-0, at the XVIII Olympic Winter Games here Thursday evening. The U.S. victory, which set up a showdown with rival Canada on Saturday, improved Team USA's record to 4-0-0, while Japan fell to 0-4-0.

The United States jumped out to a commanding 5-0 lead as forwards Shelley Looney (Trenton, Mich.) and A.J. Mleczko (Nantucket, Mass.) registered two goals apiece in the first period. Team USA's Katie King (Salem, N.H.) also notched a hat trick and Laurie Baker (Concord, Mass.) added four points on one goal and three assists to help secure the victory.

Team USA's Looney put her team on the scoreboard at 3:55 in the first period on an unassisted equal-strength goal. The U.S. took a 2-0 advantage when Mleczko scored off a cross-ice pass from defenseman Sue Merz (Greenwich, Conn.) from just inside the right faceoff circle. The third U.S. goal came after Sandra Whyte (Saugus, Mass.) put away a deflected shot from U.S. forward and team captain Cammi Granato (Downers Grove, Ill.) at 9:08 of the period. Looney then one-timed a shot high into the net for her second score, a power-play goal at 14:14. Twenty-two seconds later, Mleczko back-handed a pass from Lisa Brown-Miller (Union Lake, Mich.) at the top of the crease for her second goal of the period at 14:36. Looney also assisted on the play to make the score 5-0 after the first.

King, who led Team USA in scoring during the pre-Olympic tour, continued her point scoring streak with her first goal of the contest at 9:18 in the second period. The forward, who scored at least one point in each of Team USA's final three games of the pre-Olympic tour, has now scored in seven straight games. With 26 seconds remaining in the period, King recorded her second goal of the game to give the U.S. a 7-0 lead.

In the final stanza, Baker and U.S. assistant captain Karyn Bye (River Falls, Wis.) each scored goals on the power play at 5:37 and 11:46, respectively. King completed the hat trick at 13:03 to close out scoring in the game.

The United States' defense limited Japan to just four shots on goal in the game as goaltender Sara DeCosta (Warwick, R.I.) recorded her second victory in the tournament. The U.S. offense kept constant pressure on Japan, firing a total of 56 shots on goal.

The United States (4-0-0) continues round-robin play Saturday against Canada (3-0-0), while Japan (0-4-0) faces Sweden (0-4-0). Face-off for the USA-Canada game is set for 8:00 p.m. in Aqua Wing Arena.

SCORING SUMMARY
Team Japan 0 0 0 -- 0
Team USA 5 2 3 -- 10

First period -- Scoring: 1, USA, Looney (unassisted), 3:55. 2, USA, Mleczko (Merz, Brown-Miller), 9:08. 3, USA, Whyte (Granato) 13:32. 4, USA, Looney (Ulion, Schmidgall) 14:14 (pp). 5, Mleczko (Brown-Miller, Looney) 14:36. Penalties: Obikawa, JPN (interference), 13:56; Sakuma, JPN (body checking), 14:46; Merz, USA (cross checking), 16:31.

Second period -- Scoring: 6, USA, King (Baker, Bailey), 9:18. 7, USA, King (Blahoski, Baker), 19:34. Penalties: Obikawa, JPN (hooking), 3:17; Fujiwara, JPN (holding), 14:44; Dunn, USA (body checking), 16:53.

Third period -- Scoring: 8, USA, Baker (Granato) 5:37 (pp). 9, USA, Bye (Mounsey, Ulion), 11:46 (pp). 10, USA, King (Baker) 13:03. Penalties: Sudo, JPN (body checking), 5:06; Ono, JPN (holding), 11:35; Brown-Miller, USA (high sticking), 14:19; Mounsey, USA (elbowing), 16:32.

Shots on Goal -- JPN 1-1-2 -- 4; USA 19-24-13 -- 56.

Goalies -- JPN, Watanabe (19 shots, 14 saves), Oda at start of second (37 shots, 32 saves); USA, DeCosta (4 shots, 4 saves).

Penalties -- JPN 6/12; USA 4/8.

Power Plays -- JPN 0/4; USA 3/6.

Attendance -- 5,015.


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