A new Hobey Blaker campaign is emerging

Feb. 9—GRAND FORKS — UND put together a campaign in the late 1990s to promote Jason Blake to win the Hobey Baker Memorial Award.

"Hobey Blaker."

They made pucks and t-shirts with the catchy slogan, featuring Blake's nickname.

Blake was twice a finalist, but never won it.

It might be time to re-boot the campaign.

Blake's son, Jackson, has emerged as a serious candidate for the award, which goes to the top player in college hockey.

The UND sophomore winger has tallied 17 goals and 39 points in 28 games this season.

He's heading into UND's bye week tied with Boston University's Macklin Celebrini as the nation's fourth-leading scorer.

The only three players ahead of Blake are Denver junior forward Massimo Rizzo (44 points), Denver junior forward Jack Devine (42) and Boston College freshman forward Gabe Perreault (41).

"Coming in last year, I didn't really know what to expect," Blake said. "I was fortunate with the opportunity the coaching staff gave me. Coming into this year, I knew that obviously I had a bigger role. I think I've taken advantage of every opportunity they've given me and I definitely feel more comfortable. There's a little more leeway, a higher leash this year, so that's allowed me to play more confident and play my game."

Blake has been on a tear lately.

No player in the country has more points since Jan. 1.

Blake, a 5-foot-11, 173-pound Carolina Hurricanes draft pick, has 17 points in 10 games since the calendar flipped to 2024. He has at least a point in all 10 games in that span, including four-straight multi-point games.

"I firmly believe, 100 percent, he is a Hobey Baker candidate, for sure," UND coach Brad Berry said. "When you talk about Hobey Baker candidates who are impactful every game, what about the practices that lead up to the games? For me, your best players have to raise the bar to where you have to be in order to win. He's one of the guys in our group that's one of our best players, but he raises the bar, whether it's in a game or in practice. That's what Hobey Baker candidates bring to the table."

There's still a long way to go.

UND will play eight regular-season games and a quarterfinal playoff series before the top-10 finalists are announced.

But this year lacks an obvious frontrunner, which opens the door to whichever players thrive — and drive their team — down the home stretch.

Blake is doing that right now.

He's jumped ahead of the Denver players — Rizzo, Devine, Shai Buium and Zeev Buium — in the chase for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference scoring title, which incorporates only league games.

Blake has 24 points in conference games, one ahead of Rizzo.

"I think it's just coming to the rink every day, trying to get better, never being satisfied," Blake said of his recent production. "I think I've been playing well lately, but I feel like the team success is the most important thing. I feel like we've been playing really well as a group. That helps out, too."

Blake has helped drive team success this season.

UND (20-6-2) is ranked No. 2 nationally in the polls and is currently on a 21-game regulation unbeaten streak dating back to Nov. 2 at Boston University. It's tied as the longest regulation unbeaten streak in school history.

Blake might not have the speed of his father, but his skill level is high-end.

Instead of going around defenders, Blake will often go through them.

Because of his elusiveness with the puck, defenders often clip Blake's legs instead of the puck and take penalties. Blake has drawn 16 UND power plays this season according to InStat, the most on the team.

"He's such an elite player," UND defenseman Logan Britt said. "His vision on the ice and his ability to move the puck. . . he can do it all. He can shoot. He can pass. He's such a hard guy to defend. I have to try to defend him every day in practice. His skillset is just so elite. It's amazing what he does on the ice. He's gotten better throughout the year. He's a great player."

What's it like to try to defend him on a one-on-one rush?

"It's scary," Britt said. "I'll be honest. It's scary. He can go one way or another, turn you inside out. You kind of have to respect him, because he can make you look silly."

Blake's competitiveness is another asset.

"His dad had a lot of that and that transferred to him as far as that compete level, drive and passion," Berry said.

Blake has often been in the center of UND's big goals this season.

The Fighting Hawks have won three overtime games. He's scored all three overtime goals.

"He wants to be a difference-maker," Berry said. "He wants to be that go-to guy. We've had a number of those guys in our program. Brock Boeser was another one of those guys who wanted to be that guy on the ice. He gets back to the bench and looks and says, 'I'm ready to go.'

"That's kind of Jackson Blake. He's got that hockey player in him — that relentless approach, whether it's in practice or a game — to be a difference-maker."

Blake is playing an average 18:55 per game, second among UND forwards behind top center Cameron Berg.

He's even gotten some penalty killing duties added to his plate this season.

"It's just his relentless approach to do whatever it takes for our team to win," Berry said. "It seems like he's got a lot of energy. He gets a lot of ice time, but he's ready for that next shift. He doesn't waste a shift. He maximizes every shift he gets.

"The other part for me is the leadership side of it. When I always talk about the guys on the bench, when the leadership takes over in the locker room, it's usually the older guys. He's a sophomore but he talks on the bench. He's a guy that's starting to say the things leaders say on the bench to lead your team. He's taken a step in that regard as well."

UND's next series is at Colorado College, the opponent that gave Blake the most trouble this season.

Blake was held without a point that weekend while the Fighting Hawks lost a pair of overtime games.

"I feel like they're so packed up in the neutral zone, we just have to learn that sometimes you have to get a puck past their defense and go forecheck," Blake said. "I think that's going to be the biggest thing — not turn pucks over and get three-on-twos the other way."

Blake said he's eager for another shot at the Tigers.

"Last time didn't go as planned for us," Blake said. "Any time you get a chance to get redemption, you take it."

As for Blake, Berry said his best is yet to come.

"I think he can still keep moving and that's the great part of it," Berry said. "He's still got better ahead of him."