Peter Lappin skates into a corner after the puck, and some bruising defenseman lines him up for a crunching hit. Lappin gives a little wriggle, the defenseman smashes his face uncushioned into the glass and out of the corner with the puck headed for the goal comes . . . Peter Playoffs.
The scenario belongs to Eagle assistant coach Bob Francis. "Watch Lap in the corners," he directs. "He gives more second and third efforts than anyone I've seen. He's a tough guy to hit. He's like Gumby. You can never catch him square."Especially not in the playoffs.
Lappin, who's still in his rookie season, was last year's International Hockey League playoff MVP when he scored 28 points in 17 postseason games to lead the league and help guide the Golden Eagles to their second straight Turner Cup championship. His four-goal, six-point night in Game 6 of the championship series at Flint gave the Eagles the title a game early. He had the first four goals in a 9-5 game.
He was just out of St. Lawrence University then, having joined the Eagles once the Saints were knocked out of the collegiate playoffs.
For the 1988-89 regular season, Lappin's 48 goals were second and his 90 points were third on the Eagles, and he finished 12th in the league for total points.
But during the four games the Eagles have played in the 88-89 Turner Cup playoffs so far - they ousted Denver in straight sets - Lappin is back on top again. He led the IHL in scoring for the first playoff week with nine points, and his six goals in four games also topped the league, as did his three postseason power-play goals.
"It seems like he only needs one chance to score in the playoffs," says Eagle Coach Paul Baxter. "He's tenacious, scores the big goals."
Adds Francis, "Lap's like those trucks that have a spare fuel tank; he always reaches down a little lower when the game's on the line. Nobody's more tenacious."
Baxter said a couple weeks ago, when Lappin began warming up for the playoff run with a particularly good game, that he'd be happy to let him earn a Reggie Jackson-like Mr. April title, even if he'd have to add Mr. May, too, since the Eagles will certainly be playing into next month - they start the semifinal series Wednesday in the Salt Palace.
Says Peter Playoffs, "I deserved it, maybe, last year, but I've played well one series (this season). I'd have to do more before I deserved it.
"Actually, I don't think you can call anybody this or that because the whole team is playing well," Lappin says.
He does admit to answering the postseason bell, though. "I'd like to say I'm a good playoff hockey player," he says.
Francis says he thinks Lappin's able to turn it up a notch because playoffs are a restricted time period. You only have to win 12 games to be champ, and you only have so many tries at winning 12.
To an extent, Lappin says the same. "This is the time of year when it's a little more do or die." He likes that.
Lappin comes from a close-knit, intense family of eight in St. Charles, Ill. His father's a physician, and he has three brothers and two sisters, just about all of them athletic. Younger brother Michael is on the U.S. Junior National hockey team. "My father is very competitive. My mother is very competitive. My parents still push us," says Peter. "Our dad still tells me when I have a bad game."
But Lappin considers his strong urge to excel to be inborn. "To a point, your background will prescribe your drive, but I think a lot of it has to do with heredity," he says.
Peter found hockey in the gentleman-farming community of St. Charles at age 5, when his father's doctor partner suggested it. He enjoyed it so much he later chose to leave home at 15 to go to prep school in Connecticut because he thought that would give him a better chance to get a college scholarship. It was the right move.
"I never thought about playing pro hockey until I was a junior or senior (in college)," says Lappin, a 5-foot-11, 180-pounder, "when a couple people told me I could." He had, however, envisioned playing in Europe or in other leagues in the States, just to keep going in the game he enjoyed.
He picked up an economics degree, too, and figured if pro hockey didn't work, he'd start his own business or work for some financial firm.
Pro hockey, however, is almost too good for Lappin to believe. He gets paid for doing what he enjoys most. "I like to make the most out of life," he says. "You have to work hard, and you have to play hard. This is play that I'm getting paid for."
And the NHL is a definite possibility for him, says Francis, adding Lappin's improved his skating and defensive play this season.
"If it's going to make me a better player, I have to be interested," says Lappin with a shrug. "If I continue to improve, I should get a shot at the NHL."
"It's unbelievable," says Francis, who sometimes goads Lappin into being better, "how he responds to a confrontation. The kid will not be denied."
Deasley set to join Eagles
Left wing Bryan Deasley is expected to join the Salt Lake Golden Eagles sometime today. The former first-round Calgary Flames draft choice played for the University of Michigan and has been with Team Canada the past season. He's a 20-year-old from Toronto. He is 6-foot-3, 205 pounds.
The Eagles confirmed they will open their next playoff series Wednesday, with a second game in the Salt Palace on Friday. They're still waiting to see who their second-round opponent will be: Milwaukee lost to Kalamazoo Friday, but still leads the series 3-2. The winner meets Salt Lake.