Sotnikova was forced to settle for European silver behind Italian Carolina Kostner in Zagreb 12 months ago but she laid down a marker as the curtain came up on the 2014 edition.
The 17-year-old Russian bettered her short program mark of 68.38 set at the Grand Prix Final at the start of December to 70.73 with 15-year-old compatriot Julia Lipnitskaia second with 69.97.
Both will skate for Russia at the Winter Olympics next month as will Kostner who placed third a full point behind Lipnitskaia as a field of 37 was reduced to 24 for Friday’s free skate.
Britain's Jenna McCorkell, also selected for Sochi 2014, faced an agonising wait to see if she would be among that number after scoring 39.59 for her short program.
But the wait was worth it as the 11-time British champion, who finished 21st at the Europeans last year, qualified through to the free program as the 24th best skater.
- Sports & Recreation
- Carolina Kostner
- Julia Lipnitskaia