FARGO -- First, Jackson Blake threw his gloves and stick in the air.
Then, he waited for his turn to lift the Clark Cup. When the United States Hockey League's championship trophy was finally passed to him, Blake kissed it and raised it over his head. He held it for a few more seconds, smiled as he basked in the moment, then handed the Clark Cup to the next member of the Chicago Steel.
Next, Blake found his family on the ice, took a few photos with them, and put his little brother, Brooks, on his shoulders and took him for a spin around the ice.
If it seems like Blake is well rehearsed on celebrating a championship, it's because he's had a lot of practice this spring.
In April, the UND commit won the Minnesota state Class AA boys hockey championship with Eden Prairie. Blake scored the game-winning goal in overtime to secure the title.
On Saturday night, Blake won the Clark Cup with the Chicago Steel. He scored the game-winning goal in the clinching Game 4 in Fargo's Scheels Arena.
In a coronavirus pandemic-altered season -- one in which some junior leagues were unable to play -- Blake not only played, he scored two championship-winning goals in two months.
"The reason that happens is because, first off, he's an unbelievable kid. . . a great hockey player," Chicago coach Brock Sheahan said. "But he's competitive. And he wants to win. If you watched his game throughout the playoffs, he made the adjustments he needed to make to play the game the right way. His skillset helps him create. And when he's doing things -- the habits and details we preach all the time -- at a high level, he generates. He generated a ton tonight and he got rewarded."
Blake started the season by playing 21 games for Chicago. After agonizing for three weeks whether to stay with Chicago all year or go back to play one last prep hockey season, he decided to re-join his friends at Eden Prairie. Then, he returned to Chicago in mid-April, just in time for the USHL playoff run.
"I took a chance at going home to Minnesota and that worked out," Blake said, "and coming back worked out as well. It's definitely the most fortunate year of my life."
On Saturday night, the game was tied 1-1 in the second period when Blake got inside positioning on Fargo forward Bear Hughes and pounced on a rebound at 13:17. That goal gave Chicago the lead for good.
It was the first point of the playoffs for Blake, who had 17 points in 25 regular-season games.
"I think any Minnesota high school player that can go back and play with his teammates, his classmates and his friends. . . and for him to win a championship, I think it was a good experience," Sheahan said. "Him coming back, I actually thought it'd be harder to integrate him back into the group, but the boys absolutely love him as a player. From a coaching perspective, he wants to get better, so he did a lot of work.
"I thought his first four games, he had to get back up to speed. Minnesota high school hockey and the USHL are completely different. It even built throughout the playoffs. This weekend, I think he went from playing like four, five, six. . . he played 14 minutes last night and I'm guessing he played close to 12 tonight and was just a huge impact. I'm really proud of the kid and just excited for where he's at."
Blake is currently a junior in high school. He plans to spend his senior season with the Steel in the USHL. Then, he'll come to UND in the fall of 2022.
Blake, whose father is former UND standout Jason Blake, said his first goal is to get stronger this summer. He was listed at 5-foot-10, 148 pounds in the USHL this season.
"I think some of it is just going to take time," Sheahan said. "He's just not developed physically. Especially at the start of the year, even though he was productive, he was playing at a deficit. Most programs aren't going to play a guy like that. I think the work he puts in the weight room and just time will help him."
Blake is eligible for the NHL Draft this summer. He's expected to be a mid-round pick.
"He's such a dynamic, skilled player," Sheahan said. "He has great vision. He might be the most skilled player we've had at our program in a lot of ways. It's just making sure he's not playing a one-on-one style. When he plays a team game, he's an unbelievable player."
And one that can deliver titles.