Back in January, Georgia Swarm coach Ed Comeau had a smile on his face. His team knocked off last year's playoff finalists, Saskatchewan and Buffalo, in back-to-back weeks to open the season.
Now it's late April, and Comeau still has reason to smile. The Swarm took a 11-4 record into Saturday's game with the Bandits - the best record in the league.
"We try to talk about not being too high and not being too low, so maybe the smile doesn't mean too much," said Comeau after a morning practice in the KeyBank Center. "We've played well. We've had some good nights and some bad nights where we're not as good. That's lacrosse. There are so many good teams that if you don't bring your best on a given night, you're left hoping for results."
The Swarm took some steps forward last season with an awesome collection of young talent, particularly up front. Georgia has continued going its ascent this season.
"I always tell teams in training camp that there are eight other teams that think they can win the championship," Comeau said. "Only one of those teams is telling the truth. We thought we could improve from last year. We took some strides, as we shored up some things we wanted to do defensively. We were encouraged that we could do well this year. It's been a good year, but they don't hand out things for a good regular season."
It's always helpful to have a star on the roster, and Lyle Thompson has filled that role for the Swarm. He came into the weekend third in scoring in the league with 98 points, and his 38 goals were also third in the NLL.
The best player on the best team sometimes wins a Most Valuable Player award, and Thompson looks like a good candidate.
"Lyle has been great," Comeau said. "We really thought by the end of the year last year he was coming into his own - figuring out the timing of the league. So we were hoping he'd pick up on that, and he has. ... In the last few games he's been outstanding.
"As far as the MVP goes, that's for others to decide. What we realized is scoring is one part of his game, but he runs back and plays defense, takes faceoffs, causes turnovers, and grabs loose balls. That's a five-tool-type player. A lot of MVPs aren't those type of guys, but he can do it all."
At the other end of the floor, Mike Poulin has been solid in the Georgia goal. He left Calgary last season and signed with the Swarm, and is tied for the league lead in wins.
Winning a division title is a new feeling for the Georgia franchise. The only time it even tied for the top spot was in 2008, when as the Minnesota Swarm it finished in a four-way deadlock (Buffalo took first on a tiebreaker). So the success adds a little pressure the rest of the way.
"Guys have won at other levels. But with the Swarm, it's something new," Comeau said. "If you want to be a successful team, you can't always be a dog in the pack. You have to be the lead dog. I think our guys have handled it well. We keep reminding them that we didn't get here on talent and good looks. We got here on hard work, and that gets you over the top."
Bandits assistant coach Rich Kilgour was roaming the halls of the KeyBank Center Saturday morning with a cane after suffering some injuries from a fall at home. He thinks the device designed to help him walk could come in handy as a motivational tool for his players.
"I'm going to call it, 'The Attitude Adjuster,'" Kilgour said with a laugh.
He also had a harness for his shoulder, and a walking cast on his foot. It wasn't a pretty sight.
"I went to do some spring work around the house - clean up, do some different things," he said. "There was some siding that blew off the peak of the house. It was super-windy that day. I got to the top of the ladder, with a five-foot piece of siding in my hand. The next thing I knew, the ladder was sliding.
"I had a split-second to make a decision. At this point I feel like I made the wrong one, but who knows? A lot of people have said I'm lucky I didn't break my neck. I broke five bones in my foot. When I threw my left arm out, I broke a couple of bones and dislocated my shoulder."
Kilgour hobbled about 35 feet to the front of the house, and banged on his son's window. After about five minutes, Kilgour realize he wasn't just shaken up, and it was off to the emergency room. He missed last weekend's games in Toronto and Georgia, but was happy to be on the job again Saturday.
Does it still hurt?
"Only when I breathe," he said.
If there's a tiny silver lining in all of this, it's that family members will have to think twice about asking him to do anything around the house.
"I got out of a decade's worth of work. Now that I think about it, it might have been worth it," Kilgour said. "No, I have to thank my wife and son for all the help they've given me. It's a tough spot because I do a lot of stuff around the house. But now I have to be immobile.
"I hate it. It's driving me crazy."