TORINO, Italy — It was an unseasonably warm Friday morning in Torino, and the Olympics were looking up for Helen Resor ’09 and the U.S. Women’s Hockey Team.
Team USA had breezed through the qualifying round as expected, clobbering Germany and Switzerland and escaping an early scare against Finland with a five-goal third period. Only a Friday afternoon semifinal with the Swedes, a team that had never beaten the U.S., stood between the Americans and a much-anticipated gold medal clash with the powerful Canadian team.
But as Bode Miller and Michelle Kwan know all too well, few things in these Olympics turn out as expected. Resor and the U.S. Team lost, 3-2, to Sweden in a shootout Friday night in Torino, and will be relegated to the bronze medal game against Finland later today.
Yale All-American goaltender Sarah Love ’06, who is Canadian, said the loss must have come as a huge shock for Team USA, which had never lost to anyone but the Canadians since international play began in 1990.
“Canada and the United States spent the entire year leading up to the games training to play each other in the final,” Love said. “The fact that it isn’t a Canada-U.S. final is great for the growth of women’s hockey, but it’s tough for the U.S. team. For them to have to switch focus from gold to playing for bronze will be a huge mental test.”
The loss had little to do with Resor, who played well on defense and was not on the ice for either Swedish goal. But the shifts in momentum that came with each of the Swedes’ goals were fatal for the Americans, who panicked as the Swedes grew larger in their rear-view mirror. After playing a solid first period and leading 2-0 early in the second, Team USA was brought down by sloppy passing, defensive miscues, and hungry Swedish players — all of which appeared after the Swedes tied the game.
The Americans’ crowd support was certainly unimpressive. The 295 million-strong United States had about the same number of fans in the surprisingly empty Palaisport Olympico as did Sweden, a country of just over nine million. But the absence of home-ice advantage had little to do with regulations governing the sale of tickets, which were widely available from scalpers — at a discount, in fact — all over Torino. And although tickets to the semifinal cost twice what tickets for the preliminary games had, that did not stop the Canadians from nearly filling the place three hours later for their team’s game against Finland. The U.S. crowd, by contrast, was almost entirely composed of friends and family of one or another of the 20 American players.
But despite the surprisingly weak overall U.S. presence, by far the largest and most vocal contingent from either country at Friday’s game was the scattered but obviously connected 50-some-odd friends and family of Yale’s own Helen Resor.
The Bulldog icer’s fans were so numerous that NBC announcers had long ago taken to referring to them as the “Resor army,” and Helen’s aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, parents, great-uncle, suitemates, and everyone else parents Stan and Louise Resor thought to invite tried their best to live up to their nickname. No. 6 jerseys dotted the stands, and almost everyone’s field of vision included someone cheering for Yale’s own Olympian.
For the Resors, hockey is a family affair.
Helen’s uncle, Ed Resor ’74, is one of the four Yalies in his generation. Helen’s father Stan graduated in 1967, and Helen is joined by two cousins on the hockey team alone, Carry ’09 and Nina ’07. Helen’s uncle Tom coached both her and fellow Olympian Sarah Parsons in high school. Stan, Ed, Tom and their families are all among the relatives who have traveled to the Olympics to support Helen.
During the game, Ed seemed confident and upbeat, but as the minutes progressed, his countenance began to resemble that of his more worried wife, Anne-Marie. Ed tried to stay upbeat, talking strategy, but he and the rest of Helen’s fans were worried.
“I really wish they were up,” Anne-Marie said late in the second frame.
Helen’s mom Louise takes an unorthodox approach to rooting for her daughter, Ed Resor said.
“Of all the seats we have, Helen’s mom took the worst ones,” Ed Resor said. “Because when she has the worst seats, Helen does well and the team wins.”
Lindsay Ullman ’08, Helen’s roommate at Yale last year, traveled with suitemates Viviana Rodriguez ’08 and Liz Gulliver ’08 to watch her friend play for her country. Elizabeth Resor ’08, another suitemate and Helen’s cousin, also joined the Yale undergraduate division of the Resor army. Resor is doing well after the loss, Ullman said Sunday.
“She is in good spirits and happy to be surrounded by her family and friends,” Ullman said.
One friend who couldn’t make it to Torino because he was playing hockey himself was Matt Modelski ’07, Helen’s boyfriend and perhaps her biggest fan. If the Chicago media have it right, Helen’s arm candy is one lucky man. Last week, Resor joined Apolo Anton Ohno, Joe Polo, Gretchen Bleiler and others as part of the Chicago Sun-Times’ “Icy Hot Olympians” feature. For those in doubt of the meaning, the Sun-Times’ Lucio Guerrero clarified:
“For the next two weeks on the Glare page, we’ll give you two reasons, male and female, to watch the games,” his introduction reads. “And they’ll have nothing to do with athletic ability.”
But Helen actually has plenty of that athletic ability the Sun-Times so easily dismissed. At 5-foot-10, she is an imposing presence on the ice for the Americans. Yale’s first-ever Olympian in women’s hockey, Helen notched the first-ever point by a Bulldog in Olympic ice hockey competition with her assist on junior hockey teammate Sarah Parsons’ goal in the U.S.-Germany game Feb. 12.
Resor is an important part of the U.S. game plan. She plays many of her minutes with Team USA head coach Ben Smith’s second line, and she takes the ice on most four-on-fours and some penalty kills. The Eli can even be found on the ice at crucial points near the end of periods. In Friday’s game, Resor was on at the end of the third, when the U.S. was facing a 5-on-3, and again at the end of overtime.
Resor’s Yale legend is already cemented. Her penalty shot in the Elis’ first-ever playoff appearance tied the game that the Bulldogs went on to win against Princeton last March. Resor is not always the most electric player on the ice, especially in ultra-high-stakes Olympic competition. But Helen is obviously difficult to fluster, and she rarely, if ever, makes mistakes. Whenever Sweden scored on Friday, she was not on the ice.
A few hours after the U.S. loss, it became clear that not everyone in the American crowd was even rooting for the Americans. At the Finland-Canada game, Angie Rieger — who played for the Augsberg Auggies in college and now plays amateur hockey in Minnesota — said she didn’t agree with coach Smith’s selection of Ivy Leaguers for 11 of the 20 spots on the team, though she was not a candidate herself.
“I was rooting against the U.S.,” Rieger said. “If he’s going to make choices based on politics, he deserves to lose. A lot of them played badly.”
Still, it was veterans such as Harvard’s Angela Ruggiero, not rookies such as Resor, who made the most mistakes and seemed the most easily shaken Friday. Ruggiero, a three-time Olympian, has not done well. Her bad pass less than 20 seconds into the Finland game put the U.S. down 1-0 early, and it took them nearly 40 minutes of game time to recover.
Another terrible Ruggiero giveaway early on against Sweden nearly resulted in a goal, but it was two-time Olympian and University of Minnesota graduate Lyndsay Wall who would be the goat this time. Maria Rooth, who had made it 2-1 a few minutes earlier with a fabulous turnaround no-look backhand goal off yet another U.S. giveaway, scored the game-tying shorthanded goal after Erika Holst stripped Wall right behind the U.S. net and passed it across the front to Rooth.
Wall’s mistake was eerily similar to Ruggiero’s in the Finland game, a contest that at one point looked as though it too would end in an upset. But while the Americans had snapped out of their funk in the third frame against Finland and stopped playing down to their opponents, no such thing happened against Sweden. Instead, increasing frustration led to increasingly bad passes, and bad luck on several power plays only made the situation worse. The Americans survived a Swedish 5-on-3 at the end of regulation — in part due to some snappy play by Resor — but by the time the shootout rolled around, all the momentum was in the Swedes’ hands.
Chanda Gunn, the American goalie, had already given up a shorthanded goal, and Swedish goalie Kim Martin’s confidence had to be soaring after holding the U.S. scoreless for the final 48:56 of the game. Natalie Darwitz, Jenny Potter and Angela Ruggiero all missed penalty shots for the U.S. before the third Swedish player, Pernilla Winberg, beat Gunn. Krissy Wendell could not respond on the Americans’ next chance, and Maria Rooth scored her third of the game seconds later, clinching the upset for the Swedes.
Helen and Team USA are scheduled to play for the bronze medal today at 10:30 a.m. The game will be broadcast on MSNBC.