May 4, 2001
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio State men’s hockey coach John Markell today announced the signing of two student-athletes. Forward J.B. Bittner (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Thomas Welsh (Regina, Saskatchewan) signed National Letters of Intent to enroll in Ohio State and play hockey for the Buckeyes beginning in the 2001-02 season.
Bittner, a 5-feet-11, 175-pound right winger, was a member of the Sioux Falls Stampede of the United States Hockey League. During the regular season he posted 22 goals and 28 assists for 50 points in 53 games. He was a USHL all-star and represented the league in the Four Nations Tournament in Fussen, Germany. He also competed in a prospects tournament that included the best players from a number of junior leagues.
“I’ve played in South Dakota the past two seasons and my dad was only able to see me play a few times,” Bittner said. “My mom and dad have been a big part of my life, especially in hockey. I had offers from a number of good schools out west. But, Ohio State is only two and a half-hours from home. Playing there will give my parents, grandparents, uncles, family and friends the chance to see me play.
“Ohio State was near the top in 1998 and ’99 but then dropped off after losing some of its top players,” Bittner said. “When I went to visit the players on the team were all nice. The facility is state-of-the-art and the coaches were nice and down-to-earth. Also, some of my buddies from Pittsburgh (including R.J. Umberger and Mike Betz) play for Ohio State and I thought it would be neat to play with them.”
“J.B. has exhibited the ability to put the puck in the net,” John Markell, Ohio State head coach, said. “He has the desire to play at both ends of the ice. He is the complete package as a winger. He could have the opportunity to play on our specialty teams. We’re looking forward to adding a player of his ability to our roster.” “J.B. is a gritty right winger that has a great release and shot,” Casey Jones, Ohio State assistant coach, said. “He will add a competitive element to our team and he is a great leader. J.B. is a proven goal-scorer in the USHL, a league that has produced recent Ohio State student-athletes R.J. Umberger, Dave Steckel and Paul Caponigri.”
Welsh, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound right-shot defenseman, last played for the Nipawin Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. An offensive defenseman, he led all SJHL defensemen in scoring with 77 points, including 59 assists, in 62 regular season games. In the playoffs, he ranked first among blueliners with 16 points in 15 games and his postseason point total tied for fourth among all players in the league. He was an all-star selection for the North Division and was nominated as the best defenseman of the all-star game. He also was a second-team all-league selection.
“I’m excited to be going to Ohio State,” Welsh said. “The school offers the total experience. I will have access to so many opportunities – it’s a big school and there are a lot of alumni. The rink was definitely attractive. The players I talked to also seemed to like it there. Columbus is a nice size city to be in. The team appears to be getting stronger. It looked like it will have a good opportunity to win a championship within the next few years.”
“Thomas can be an offensive threat any time he is on the ice,” Markell said. “He can be a sparkplug for us offensively. He is coming in as an older freshman (20 years old). He had success in his junior career and as an older rookie he should be able to display patience and leadership on the ice.”
“Thomas is a very shifty offensive defenseman who sees the ice well,” Steve Brent, Ohio State assistant coach, said. “He is a good skater and makes good decisions with the puck. He was the quarterback on Nipawin’s power play.”