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Victory sends United to Pakenham Cup finals

Peace Arch United's Mike Evans (left) is slide-checked by Athletic Club BC's Yukimi Kikuchi in Pakenham semifinals Sunday in Port Moody.

On the same day that winter officially gave way to spring, something else that happens with nearly the same regularity occurred – Peace Arch United qualified for the Pakenham Cup finals.

The Peninsula men's premier soccer squad punched its ticket to the championship game – making it the sixth time in seven years they've done so – after a 3-0 win over Athletic Club B.C. Sunday afternoon in Port Moody.

And as one of the team's two longest-serving players, John Collins said advancing to the big game never gets old.

"No, not at all. This kind of run is really unprecedented and it's big for a lot of guys, personally," said Collins, who along with Keegan Munn, has been with with the premier squad since the 2002/03 season.

"It's important to continue this legacy that we've built here."

Considering Peace Arch and Athletic Club B.C. had played to a 1-1-1 record this season before Sunday's matchup, Collins admitted that the game wasn't as close as he anticipated.

"We really dominated right from start to finish. I think we came into the game more prepared, and it showed," he said.

"They'd also beaten us the last time we played, so maybe they came into the game with a little too much swagger."

Matt Dobie opened the scoring for Peace Arch early in the first half, and Jamie Williams made it 2-0 right before halftime. Jay Dunnett rounded out the scoring, tacking on the team's third goal in the second half.

And though he didn't figure into the scoring, Collins was quick to pinpoint one of the team's youngest players – 21-year-old centre-midfielder Scott Barling – as the team's man-of-the-match.

Peace Arch will face North Delta SC in the Pakenham finals, which are scheduled for April 2 at South Surrey Athletic  Park. North Delta advanced to the title game after a 4-3 win over Port Coquitlam FC Sunday – a game that was decided on penalty kicks.

"That was an upset, for sure," said Collins of the other semifinal tilt.

If Peace Arch is able to beat North Delta, it will be the team's fifth Pakenham Cup title since 2005; they won last year, did not make it to the finals in 2009, and have only lost a championship game once, in 2006 to Langley.

PAU is also set to wrap up its Fraser Valley Soccer League premier schedule this weekend against Chilliwack, and a win will also secure a regular-season title for the Peninsula men's squad. In back-to-back years – 2007 and '08 – PAU won both league and Pak Cup titles.

"To do that again, would be pretty special," said Collins. "There are a lot of guys on our team who are old enough to play masters soccer next year – or could have this year, actually – and this is why we stayed here."

Though North Delta may be an underdog heading into the April 2 title game, Collins expects a tough, high-spirited battle.

"A couple of our guys have played for North Delta before, and a couple of their players have played here, so there's a bit of a rivalry there, it'll be a bit of a grudge match."