YEAR IN REVIEW

2013 IN REVIEW: Blackhawks start, then Cup finish highlights national sports scene

2013-12-29T00:00:00Z 2014-06-24T21:08:10Z 2013 IN REVIEW: Blackhawks start, then Cup finish highlights national sports scene nwitimes.com
December 29, 2013 12:00 am

1. Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup after a lockout-shortened year

After starting the season on a historic winning streak, the Blackhawks parlayed their success into their fifth Stanley Cup and second in four seasons.

The NHL season started nearly four months late because of a players lockout and shortened the year from 82 games to 48. In the first half of those games, the Blackhawks earned at least a point, becoming the first team in NHL history to open the season with a point in 24 consecutive games.

The stretch didn't match the league's longest winning streak, held by the 1979-80 Philadelphia Flyers, who opened the season with a win, then a loss, before winning or tying 35 straight. The Flyers' streak didn't include shootout losses.

The 2013 Blackhawks, with their 36-7-5 record and President's Cup Trophy, won home-ice advantage through the postseason, beat Minnesota (in five games), Detroit (in overtime in game seven) and L.A. Kings (in five games) to play the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals.

In game six of the series, the Blackhawks scored twice — on goals from Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland — in the final 1:16 of the game to win the Cup. — Hillary Smith

2. Region has three freshmen on the NCAA runner-up U-M

Very few people in America knew who Spike Albrecht was on April 7.

But the Crown Point grad made a huge name for himself on April 8, when he scored 17 first-half points in the NCAA championship game against Louisville. Albrecht was blowing up on Twitter from coast to coast that night.

Fellow regionites Glenn Robinson III (Lake Central) and Mitch McGary (Chesterton) were also members of the Woliverines runner-up team, which lost to the Cardinals 82-76. Robinson scored 12 in the game and McGary scored six. Blue and maize could be seen all around Northwest Indiana as area fans suddenly became Michigan fans. — Steve Hanlon

3. Golden dome tarnished by BCS rout, Te'o hoax, Golson cheating

All the good fortune that typified Notre Dame's unbeaten 2012 regular season, two overtime victories among five games decided by seven points or less, all came crashing down on the Fighting Irish in 2013, starting with the BCS National Championship.

Alabama rolled to a 28-0 halftime lead on its way to a 42-14 victory, and it only proceeded to get worse from there for the golden domers and Heisman Trophy runner-up Manti Te'o. The inspirational story of Te'o playing the season despite the death of his girlfriend turned out to be a hoax.

Notre Dame had become aware of the matter prior to the game, but the news didn't go public until days afterward. Te'o was drafted in the second round by the San Diego Chargers, but has yet to establish himself at the professional level to live down the embarrassment of the complex ruse. The '13 season was headlined by the loss of quarterback Everett Golson to an academic indiscretion, a.k.a. cheating. — Jim Peters

4. Explosion at Boston Marathon

Chicago Marathon Executive Race Director Carey Pinkowski, a Hammond grad, spent much of his day at the April 15 Boston Marathon renewing acquaintances inside the media center, located 100 yards from the finish line.

"It was a beautiful day. A beautiful morning. A great race," Pinkowski recalled. "Normally, I would've walked out and watched the finish."

Instead, Pinkowski left to catch a flight back to Chicago. Driving to Logan International Airport in East Boston, he was on the phone with a Boston worker he knew "... when he shouted: 'Wow. I just heard an explosion!' -- and we were cut off," Pinkowski said.

Two pressure cooker bombs had exploded seconds apart near the finish line on Boylston St., killing three and injuring 264. Al Hamnik

5. Crusaders return to the dance

It was nine years between invitations, but the Valparaiso men's basketball team, in Bryce Drew's third season as head coach, returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004 by topping Wright State 62-54 in the championship of the Horizon League tournament at the Athletics-Recreation Center.

The Crusaders, who were also the league's regular-season champions, barely survived their opening game of the tourney, 70-69 against Green Bay on a Ryan Broekhoff buzzer beater.

VU (26-8) lost its opening game of the NCAA tournament to Michigan State, 65-54, in Auburn Hills, Mich. The win total was an all-time high, besting the mark of 25 from 2001-2.

Broekhoff, the centerpiece of a large senior class, finished his Valpo career sixth in scoring (1,591 points), tied for second in rebounds (841), 19th in assists (246) and second in games played (134). — Jim Peters

6. Continuing Derrick Rose saga

The Bulls' franchise player tore his left ACL against Philadelphia in Game 1 of the 2011-12 NBA playoffs, missed all of last season while recuperating, then tore his right meniscus at Portland in Game 11 this season.

Rose has played 50 games in nearly three seasons as the Bulls' playoff hopes slowly fade. He refuses to "recruit" free agents who could help the team through a major overhaul that's looming, thereby upsetting fans even more.

And when Rose does return, will his game have suffered? Many believe it will. — Al Hamnik

7. Bears fire Lovie Smith, hire Marc Trestman

Lovie Smith had an 81-63 record in nine seasons with the Bears, including a Super Bowl appearance in 2006, but made the playoffs only three times and it cost him his job. Defense was Smith's specialty, but his hand-picked offensive coordinators were all flawed.

So Smith was shown the door after last season and former Canadian Football League legend Marc Trestman, whose strength is building offenses and developing quarterbacks, got the job.

The jury's still out, however, given the rash of injuries among the Bears' defensive starters this season. — Al Hamnik

8. NIU's Lynch third in Heisman voting

Most college coaches thought he was too small, not fast enough to play Division I football. But Northern Illinois took a chance and hit the jackpot.

Jordan Lynch, a Mount Carmel grad and 2008 Times Illinois offensive player of the year, walked onto the big stage at New York's Downtown Athletic Club and finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting behind Florida state's James Winston and runner-up AJ McCarron of Alabama.

Lynch rushed for just over 1,900 yards. He passed for 2,676 yards and 23 touchdowns. He received 558 votes, including 40 first-place votes and it was the highest finish for a Mid-American Conference player. — Mike Nieto

9. Merrillville's Gregg Popovich guides San Antonio to within a game of NBA title

The Indiana Harbor native and future Hall of Fame coach had perhaps his darkest moment as a coach in Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals against the Heat when he sat defensive anchor Tim Duncan twice in the final seconds — with a five-point lead — and went with the more mobile Boris Diaw.

Miami won the game on some wild 3s by Ray Allen and Shane Battier, and missed free throws by the Spurs, then claimed the series two days later.

A Google search for "Game 6 Gregg Popovich's fault" that night got 408,000 results.

The 1966 Merrillville grad has won four NBA titles but says he still thinks about Game 6, telling his squad to use it as motivation this season. — Al Hamnik

10. Valparaiso baseball, softball teams reach second straight NCAA tournaments

After improbable appearances in the 2012 NCAA postseason, the Valparaiso baseball and softball teams proved that the second time can be just as charming, winning their respective Horizon League tournaments to advance to the NCAA pool again.

In baseball, the Crusaders were a No. 3 seed in the Horizon League Tournament and had to beat No. 2 UIC and No. 1 Milwaukee before shutting out Wright State in the championship game.

Drawing a bid to the Bloomington Regional, Valparaiso reached the tournament for the second straight year — after a 44-year drought was quenched in 2012 — and stayed in Indiana for second straight trip to the NCAA tournament. The Crusaders lost to Indiana in the bottom of the ninth in the first game of the Regional (the Hoosiers went on to play in the College World Series), before beating Florida 5-4 for their first win in the NCAA tournament since 1966. A loss to Austin Peay ended Valpo's run.

In softball, Valparaiso played in only their second NCAA tournament, winning a game for the first time beating Central Michigan 7-4 in an elimination game before losing to then-No. 18 ranked California 6-0.

The Crusaders softball team won four straight elimination games in the Horizon League Tournament in Chicago to earn the trip to the Ann Arbor Regional. — Hillary Smith

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