The San Diego Gulls suffered their third consecutive one-goal loss, losing 2-1 to the Stockton Heat on Saturday evening at Pechanga Arena San Diego, and fell further behind San Jose in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the Calder Cup playoffs.
In a game where all the goals were scored in the third period, defenseman Juuso Valimaki put in the rebound of a shot by Matthew Phillips with 13 seconds to play for his fourth goal in 20 games with Stockton this season.
“One part of me is encouraged by the way we played,” Gulls coach Dallas Eakins said. “The other, not only I but the whole team, feels like we’ve been booted right in the nether regions with a boot a couple of times. It’s hard to take.”
Adam Cracknell opened the scoring two minutes, one second into the third period when he took a pass from Matt Berry in front of the unguarded left goal post and scored his 14th goal in 29 games with the Gulls after being acquired by their NHL parent team, the Anaheim Ducks, Dec. 10, from the Toronto Maple Leafs in exchange for defenseman Steven Oleksy.
Defenseman Keaton Thompson was also credited with an assist.
Cracknell had appeared to give the Gulls the lead late in the second period when his shot beat Heat goaltender Jon Gillies, but the period expired before the puck completely crossed the goal line.
Stockton (28-28-4-2) tied the score with 11:39 left when Spencer Foo’s wrist shot beat Kevin Boyle for his 16th goal in 61 games.
With San Jose defeating Pacific Division-leading Bakersfield, 4-2, the Gulls fell four points behind the second-place Barracuda (35-20-3-4). The Gulls (33-23-4-3) have five games left to play, one fewer than San Jose.
The Gulls will play at San Jose on Wednesday.
The Gulls remained in a tie for third with Colorado, which lost to Tucson, 5-2, on Saturday. The Eagles (34-25-4-1) have four games remaining.
The Gulls led in shots, 35-32, including a 15-9 advantage in the first period, before a crowd announced at 8,522.
The Gulls failed to score on their two power-play opportunities and killed all four of the Heat’s.
Boyle (22-12-1-0) stopped 30 of 32 shots, one night after being replaced after allowing three goals in the first period in a 3-2 loss to Bakersfield.
Gillies (16-17-4-1) made 34 saves for Stockton, the Calgary Flames American Hockey League affiliate.
Earlier Saturday, the Ducks recalled centers Sam Carrick and Chase De Leo from the Gulls, their two leading scorers.
— City News Service