WATERTOWN — Joe Deveny is enjoying his time back in the north country, this time with the Watertown Wolves.
Deveny is no stranger to the region as he played the past four seasons with SUNY Canton. Tyler Bullard, his former teammate and linemate there, is already fitting in with the Wolves.
Bullard, who signed with the team Tuesday, scored the game-winning goal 49 seconds into overtime to lift Watertown to a 4-3 win over the Battle Creek Rumble Bees on Saturday night at Watertown Municipal Arena.
Bullard capped a comeback for the Wolves, who trailed by two goals in the second period against the expansion Rumble Bees.
“Obviously that’s a team that doesn’t have many wins in the league, but that’s a team that comes to compete every single night,” Bullard said. “They really played desperate all night, they did the same thing to us tonight. But I think a win like this shows a lot about this team, it shows a lot about our character, we just put our heads down and kept working back, inch by inch.”
Watertown (21-15) extended its winning streak to six games. Bullard, in just his third game with the team, generated the deciding goal by faking a backhander and then beating goalie Joel Eisenhower with his forehand, with Kyle Powell assisting.
“I just tried to take it to the net as hard as a I could,” Bullard said. “It feels really good, like I said earlier, just being back and playing the game that I love, being with a great group of guys, it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Deveny, who has been with the Wolves for most of the season, is getting a chance to try his hand at pro hockey. He’s already one of the team’s top scorers.
“I’ve been up in the north country for a while now, this is my fifth year,” Deveny said beforehand, wearing a SUNY Canton sweatshirt. “It’s nice, I know a lot of people in the area, like I can visit my old teammates when I can. I enjoy it here.”
The rookie winger has become one of the regulars this season with Watertown and has totaled 35 points, including 20 goals, in 28 games.
“It’s been a good opportunity here,” said 23-year-old Deveny, who scored his 20th goal of the season in a 4-1 win over Battle Creek on Friday. “Obviously the end goal is to move back up where I was by the end of the year. But we’ll see how that unfolds.”
An Ontario native, Deveny served as a team captain with SUNY Canton last season, totaling 21 points, including 10 goals.
“Deveny is solid,” Watertown coach Paul MacLean said. “He had a beauty against Danbury (on Wednesday night), he’s been solid. That line, it’s a good line with Bullard at center and Deveny and Dominik (Bogdziul). Bullard has been a nice pickup for us.”
Deveny has had a taste of several different levels of pro hockey since then as after he attended training camp for both Toledo of the ECHL and Roanoke of the SPHL, he joined the Wolves during the second week of their Federal Prospects Hockey League campaign.
After he was called up and played two games for Birmingham of the SPHL in Alabama, Deveny was reassigned to the Wolves in mid-January.
Since then, he’s generated nine points, including three goals, in his past seven games.
“I think I’m playing better offensively this year,” said Deveny, who also set up Powell’s tying goal in the third period. “I still need to work on my defense a bit, though.”
Deveny has been reunited with Bullard, who has now scored two goals in his three games with Watertown.
“I was super bored, I was biting at the bit to get back to playing hockey,” Bullard said. “It’s a good opportunity and it feels like a good fit.”
Like they did in college, Deveny and Bullard, a center, have been skating on the same line, along with fellow rookie Bogdziuk.
“He’s been great as well,” Deveny said of Bogdziuk. “He’s such a nifty and skilled player and he’s fun to play with. I think we have some good chemistry.”
While Deveny recorded a hat trick with three goals in his pro debut with the Wolves on Nov. 1 against Port Huron, Bullard scored his first pro goal in his first game with Watertown in a 6-3 win against Danbury on Wednesday.
“He’s definitely a scorer,” Bullard, who grew up in Ballston Spa, north of Albany, said of Deveny. “He’s a great player and he loves playing with the puck on his stick. He’s definitely a player you have to keep an eye on.”
“I played with him for three years, he’s a very offensively skilled player, very fast, can make quick decisions,” Deveny said of Bullard. “So it’s nice to have him here.”
Both Deveny and Bullard have contributed to the growth of the SUNY Canton program as after the team won 14 games last season at the Division III level as an independent.
“Our first three years we struggled, but last year we had a really good team,” Deveny said of SUNY Canton, which is in its fourth season under head coach Alex Boak, a former Clarkson player and Potsdam native. “We won 14 games, so we had a good team, I was the captain there last year, I enjoyed my time there.”
While the style of play in the FPHL is different to that of the SPHL as well as the college game, Deveny has also been adjusting to the length of the pro season.
“It’s good, it’s been up and down,” Deveny said. “Coming back from the SPHL, it was a little hard to find my game again after playing two games up there. Just because it’s a different kind of play up there, it’s much more physical and defensive minded. Where here it’s lot more offense and stuff like that.”
He continued: “It’s definitely an adjustment; you’ve got to take care of your body a lot more. In college, you practice every single day and it’s a pretty tiring practice. Where here it’s about 50 minutes of practice and it’s done.”
While ultimately Deveny is hoping for a call-up to a higher level of the game, he’s pleased with what he sees with the Wolves.
“Things are good,” Deveny said. “It’s been a bit of an up and down experience. We were down a little last month, but now things are really starting to heat up again.”
Saturday, the Wolves trailed 3-1 against Battle Creek (1-34), but rallied to tie the game on back-to-back power-play goals from Deric Boudreau and Powell, with Powell’s goal 3:43 into the third period. Watertown went 3-for-5 on the man advantage, including a power-play goal from Nikolas Kalpouzos for the game’s first score in the first period.
Powell had a hand in each Wolves’ goal, with a goal and three assists on the night, and Michael Desjarlais assisted on two goals.
Rookie goalie Mike Cosentino made 33 saves, his second win of the season in as many starts with Watertown.
Eisenhower finished with 34 stops for Battle Creek.
The Wolves also swept the five-game season series with the Rumble Bees, including three wins in Michigan back in November.
n NOTES: The Wolves will play on the road the next two weekends with games against league-leading Carolina next Friday and Saturday and will play at Eastern Division rival Elmira on Feb. 14-15, before returning to host Elmira on Feb. 16 at 4 p.m. in Watertown.