Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Machine deals Bussell to Mahoning Valley

The Mahoning Valley Phantoms have added another piece to their already-potent offense by acquiring Motor City Machine forward Josh Bussell in exchange for first-year defenseman Dustin Hopfner.

In 33 games this season, Bussell has racked up 16 goals and 13 assists with the Machine and the Marquette Rangers - the team with which he started the season.

Bussell is a second-year player in the NAHL, playing in Marquette for his rookie season of 2007-08. He was the Rangers’ second-leading scorer that year with 22 goals and 22 assists in 57 games.

A 2009 Top Prospects Tournament selection, Bussell says he is happy to come to the Valley as the Phantoms prepare for the stretch run.

“I’m pretty excited to join the team,” said Bussell. “I’m hoping I can fit in well with the guys who are already here and be able to contribute.”

The addition of the LaSalle native stacks on even more firepower to the Phantoms’ offense, currently ranked fifth in the league with a 3.77 goals per game average. It also comes in the midst of an offensive hot streak that has seen the Phantoms pour in 39 goals in their last eight games.

Phantoms head coach Bob Mainhardt thinks the acquisition of Bussell will make a big impact on the divisional standings.

“Josh is a well-rounded offensive player,” said Mainhardt, who coached Bussell at Top Prospects last month. “We hope for him to add a nice scoring punch in our tight North Division matchups.”

The move comes just days before the Phantoms’ three-game showdown for first place in the North with the second-place Traverse City North Stars.

Bussell has high hopes for the matchup against the North Stars, against whom he has nine goals and seven assists in 17 career games.

“Obviously, it’s a big series with them only two points behind us,” said the newest Phantom. “I love playing against Traverse City, so I’m hoping we can come away with a three-game sweep this weekend.”

Hopfner, a 19-year-old Eastpointe native, leaves the Phantoms after posting three assists in 34 games and a plus-4 rating on the blue line. Hopfner made a name for himself with Mahoning Valley by throwing big open-ice hits and with strong play in the defensive corners.

Mainhardt says that the Machine got a gem for their defensive corps in Hopfner.

“Dustin is a great defenseman; Motor City is getting a top-four defender who will make an impact immediately,” said the sixth-year Phantoms coach. “You need to give up a good player to get a good one.”

The NAHL trade deadline is next Sunday.

Photo by Robert Meyer/NAHL

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