The Gulls planned to celebrate clinching their third straight playoff berth Wednesday night in front of their hometown fans.
The stage was set for their last home regular season game as the Gulls needed either a win or a point (overtime loss) to officially lock down a spot in the AHL postseason.
But the Tucson Roadrunners had other plans.
The visitors scored twice in the second period and two more times in the third to secure a solid 4-0 win over San Diego.
The exclamation point came in the final period when the Gulls had pulled their goalie.
Tucson’s Larson Crouse won a face-off and somehow weaved his way all the way down the ice through all the San Diego skaters and easily deposited a back-breaking empty-netter.
The disappointment was evident as the Gulls will now have to secure a playoff berth Friday or Saturday when they play at Tucson to close out the regular season.
There are ways for San Diego to get into the postseason if other teams on the playoff fringe lose, but the easiest scenario is for the Gulls to earn one point in their last two contests.