It has been an intermittent problem for the Estevan Tarpon Energy Big Dogs all season, and at the Prairie Gold Lacrosse League playoffs, it killed them.
The Big Dogs had only 13 players and crashed out of the PGLL playoffs in Saskatoon on the weekend, finishing last on the B side despite finishing the regular season in fifth place.
Big Dogs head coach Evan Handley said some players chose to go to the concerts at Craven and others were working.
"Our lack of numbers killed us. If you look at the first periods, every game was close for at least a period. After that, all the other teams had more numbers than us. When all your players are playing both offence and defence and not getting a lot of rest, it's too hard to compete in a tournament like that," he said.
The Big Dogs opened the playoffs on Friday with a 21-12 loss to the fourth-place Moose Jaw Mustangs which knocked them to the B side of the tournament.
"It wasn't a 21-12 game. If you look in the third, that's where they scored a lot of their goals," said Handley, who noted that the Big Dogs had a first-period goal disallowed that would have put them ahead 4-1, which was immediately followed by a Moose Jaw goal.
He described it as a "huge momentum changer."
Dylan Smith led the Big Dogs with five goals. Rhett Handley, who was named to the league's all-star team, had four, while Mark Moriarty added two and Ty Currie had one.
Taylor Dobrescu starred for the Mustangs with eight goals, and Nathan Fall added four.
"Moose Jaw's got some talented kids. Dobrescu had a heck of a game. (Chris) Sauder's an agitator who gets under everybody's skin. I think we did a good job of staying out of the penalty box all weekend," said Handley.
The loss knocked the Big Dogs out of contention for the league title. On Saturday, they faced a familiar foe in the Saskatoon Smash in the B semifinal.
The Smash won 25-10, scoring 11 goals in the second period alone.
"They are a dirty, dirty, dirty team all around. I don't know how to say it any way nicer," Handley said.
"They play five or six guys on defence and they can't carry the ball, but they are big and they're mean and they're nasty. Hey, it works for the Smash. They won the B side after finishing last (in the regular season)."
Rhett Handley led the Big Dogs with five goals, with Smith tallying three and Currie and Moriarty adding singles. Jason Price and Bayden Boyenko had five apiece for Saskatoon.
In the B side consolation game, Handley said it was evident that his team was exhausted, but he commended them for their effort in a 23-14 loss to the Saskatoon Steelers.
"I give our kids a ton of credit, they came out and played super hard against that team," he said. "You could tell they were exhausted. There were some major mental mistakes. There were kids not being able to get back, not because they didn't want to, but they just didn't have the stamina."
Rhett Handley had six goals for Estevan, with Smith (4), Moriarty (3) and Currie also scoring.
Smith led the team in scoring for the tournament, with 24 points, followed by Handley with 20.
Although four players were responsible for all of the team's scoring on the weekend, Handley was impressed with the rest of the crew that made it to Saskatoon.
He said Currie was "a big, strong physical presence for us all weekend. I don't know how many posts that kid hit. He was dialed in.
"Dustin DeBruyne, Kaleb Memory and Katie King played really, really hard. Josh Pryznyk, you'll never see his name on the scoresheet, but he played super, super hard, got bowled over a couple of times and was right back up. He worked really, really hard. I'm very proud of all those kids. (Ryan) Juhlke had his first fight (against the Steelers). He works so hard, never misses a practice and he loves lacrosse."
Handley said 2012 was "probably the best season the Big Dogs have ever had" and added that it appears Rhett Handley will be selected to represent Saskatchewan at the Founders Cup next month for the second straight year.
The event is the national Junior B lacrosse championship and will be held Aug. 14-19 in southern Ontario.
"We're doing a good job of developing talent here," said Handley. "You look at all our kids. You have nobody that came from outside (Estevan), other than Smith. All our kids were developed in Estevan and have played in Estevan."