Alex Szczechura had a hat trick and an assist while linemates Tanner Fritz and Max McCormick combined for two goals and five assists as Ohio State pounded sixth-ranked Western Michigan 6-3 on Saturday in Value City Arena.
Szczechura, a junior, scored in each period and nine of his 10 goals have come in the past 14 games.
"Anytime you can get a big win and bang in a few goals it feels really good," he said. "Our line's clicking right now as well as the whole team. We just wanted to get some pucks to the net. The rebounds were there."
His third goal came at 5:22 of the third period after a nifty set-up by Fritz, who had three assists and a score of his own during a four-goal middle period that saw the Buckeyes (13-12-7, 11-7-5-1 CCHA) twice overcome a deficit.
McCormick, the third member of the newly-named ATM Line, picked his second assist of the game on Szczechura's goal after breaking a 3-3 tie at 14:44 of the middle stanza with a backhanded rebound in the middle of a stretch of three OSU goals in 4:16.
"We didn't coach well. We didn't play well. We got it handed to us," Western Michigan coach Andy Murray said.
The Buckeyes' 42 points keep them tied with Ferris State for fourth, the last spot assured of home-ice after a bye into the second round. OSU has four games league games left, the Bulldogs two.
OSU needs just two points to clinch at least fifth place and home-ice in the first round where the Buckeyes are 4-0-2 in the past six games in VCA.
"The guys are excited to play here," OSU coach Mark Osiecki said. "Look at tonight. The crowd (4,436) was great. The band was great. It was a fun environment. It's only going to get better."
Few could have predicted the goal explosion after Friday's 1-1 tie (WMU won the shootout) in which two of the nation's top six defenses put on a clinic.
Yet, something strange was afoot when the Buckeyes opened the scoring just 1:44 into the game on Szczechura's redirect of defenseman Brandon Martell's shot from the point.
That should have built momentum but Western (18-6-2, 14-6-4-2) responded with goals by Justin Kovacs and David Killip before the period was over.
Western's Dennis Brown regained the lead just 42 seconds later on the power play. Then it was Szczechura's turn with the rebound of his own shot 80 seconds later to make it 3-3. Sophomore Ryan Dzingel and senior goalie Brady Hjelle assisted.
The ATM line then increased the line as McCormick scored on another rebound with helpers going to Fritz and Szczechura for their work in front of the goal.
"We've had a lot of chemistry," Frit said of his partners. "A few games before that we weren't getting the bounces. We're really clicking as a line. It's probably the best time to be doing that going into the playoffs."
When sophomore Darik Angeli stuffed in his own shot at 17:49 the Buckeyes had a two-goal lead heading into the third..
It was then left to Szczechura to cap the game with his third tally.
"We knew as a staff we was an offensive player but he was fighting to earn the right to play on some offensive lines. He's earned that right," Osiecki said. "He can score some goals. He's got great instincts to make plays with the puck but also very talented round the net."