SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Gulls missed a chance to improve their chances for home ice advantage in the opening round of the Calder Cup Playoffs Wednesday evening with a 4-0 loss to the San Jose Barracuda at San Jose.
The loss combined with the Ontario Reign picking up a standings point with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Bakersfield Condors leaves the Gulls (35-24-3- 1) three points behind Ontario (35-21-4-3) in the race for second place in the American Hockey League’s Pacific Division and home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
Both teams have five games left to play in the regular season, including matchups Friday in Ontario and Saturday at Valley View Casino Center.
The Gulls scoreless streak was extended to 101 minutes, 53 seconds by San Jose goaltender Antoine Bibeau, who stopped all 27 shots he faced for his fifth shutout of the season, one off the league lead.
The Barracuda (29-26-4-4) held the Gulls league-leading power play scoreless on both opportunities.
San Jose, last in the eight-team Pacific Division, got their first two goals from players making their professional debuts, Alexander Chmelevski and Ivan Chekhovich, and their last two from a rookie, Rudolfs Balcers.
Chmelevski opened the scoring 5:15 into the first period when he took a pass from John McCarthy, a member of the 2018 U.S. Olympic team, an flipped the puck over a sliding Kevin Boyle. The goal came on Chmelevski’s first shot as a professional.
“We knew part of the game plan was to have a good start,” center Sam Carrick said after the Gulls third loss in four games. “To get down a goal early kind of put us on our heels a bit. We didn’t do enough of the things that we had planned on before the game and that was the result.”
The Barracuda’s NHL parent club, the San Jose Sharks, signed the 18- year-old Chmelevski to an entry-level contract Tuesday after he led the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67s in goals (35), assists (41) and points (76). Chmelevski was born in Huntington Beach.
Chmelevski also assisted on Balcers’ power-play goal with 9:56 left in the third period that completed the scoring. The goal was Balcers’ team- leading 20th of the season.
San Jose increased its lead to 2-0 14:50 into the first period when Chekhovich put a shot under Boyle’s glove.
The Barracuda signed the native of Yekaterinburg, Russia to an amateur tryout agreement Tuesday after he completed the season with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Balcers put in a rebound of a shot by Radek Simek 8:42 into the second period.
Boyle (18-11-1-1) made 29 saves.
There were two fights.
Gulls left wing Mike Liambas and San Jose left wing Emerson Clark fought 16 seconds into the second period.
Liambas received a five-minute major penalty for his seventh fight in 35 games with the Gulls this season and a two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct minor. Clark also received a five-minute major penalty for fighting and a two- minute unsportsmanlike conduct minor.
Gulls right wing Corey Tropp and Barracuda right wing Colby McAuley received five-minute majors for their fight with 7:37 left in the third period.