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Hats off to Panthers' Irving

North Medford had dominated its cross-town rival on the ice since the two schools began meeting four years ago, winning seven of the nine meetings between the schools.

That was before Dane Irving arrived.

Irving, a freshman, had a hat trick in his first varsity game as the Panthers topped the Black Tornado 3-1 at The RRRink on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.

It was also the first Southern League contest to feature checking, which was implemented in the offseason. Checking had been outlawed the four previous seasons but was voted on and passed in April.

"It's a lot faster, more intense than the junior leagues," Irving said of his first taste of high school hockey.

Irving opened the scoring barely 10 minutes into the contest, connecting on a wrist shot from the face-off circle that beat North goalie Stephen Cole and found the top left corner of the net.

After North's Cody Chiverton tied the contest with a goal early in the second, Irving dominated the third period.

First he gave South the lead for good on a breakaway at the 1:05 mark, then he sealed the game with a shot in traffic that found its way under Cole with 4:04 remaining.

"We have a bunch of new kids and they're all pretty good," Irving said of the Panthers. "They're counting on me for scoring, passing and defense."

First-line all-Southern League goalie John Adamson made 27 saves for the Panthers, while second-team all-league netminder Cole stopped 28 of 31 shots for the Black Tornado.

South Medford faces Crater on Saturday, while North Medford travels to Klamath Falls.

North Medford’s Taylor Covey, left, Mathew McClure, and South Medford’s Andrew Phillips fight for the puck during Wednesday’s game at The RRRink. - Jamie Lusch