The third time was the charm for Yale women’s hockey in the Olympics. After sending two teams to compete against the world’s best with nary a Bulldog representative, U.S. head coach Ben Smith finally tapped a star Eli defender to join Team USA in the quest for a second gold medal.

Yale defender Helen Resor ’09 was named to the U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team Dec. 28, nabbing one of 20 spots on the squad and becoming the first Bulldog ever to skate for Team USA. Smith formally announced the roster at a ceremony that day at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn.

Resor said she had been nervous before the in-house announcement, held in a private locker room meeting after an exhibition game between Team USA and Finland on Dec. 18.

“It was very nerve-racking, but a big relief when it was over,” she said. “It was bittersweet, though. We had all worked so hard together, and three players — a defenseman, a goalie and a forward — got cut.”

Though Resor, who is taking the current academic year off to play with the national team, has been missed by her teammates this season, the Elis back in New Haven could not have been happier with the selection.

“What I miss the most about Helen being gone this year is her energy and enthusiasm,” goalie Sarah Love ’06 said. “She plays the game with everything she has, and that makes everyone on her team better. It’s going to be awesome watching her play in Torino.”

The selections came on the heels of the first 16 games of the Hilton Family “Skate to 2006,” in which 23 prospective Olympians competed against various national teams, starting with a 5-1 victory over the Western Collegiate Hockey All-Stars on Sept. 30. Resor played in all 16 matches up until the announcement, notching an assist on the lone goal for the team’s 1-0 victory over Finland Nov. 7.

The exhibition tour finished with a pair of games against Canada over New Year’s weekend. Resor played in both matches of the home-and-home series, the first a 4-2 loss in St. Paul, Minn., and the second a 4-3 win in Winnipeg, Man.

The Bulldog defenseman predicted beforehand how evenly matched their final two contests might be.

“We have a ways to go before the Olympics, and it might be a little impractical to think [of it as a preview of the gold-medal game],” Resor said. “But with Canada, it depends which team shows up.”

Resor turned heads as a rookie in Bulldog blue. Although she missed the first eight games with a broken leg, the defender delivered seven goals and 11 assists, including six goals in the final nine games to finish sixth on the team with 18 points. A potent offensive threat even as a defender, Resor finished ninth among blueliners nationwide, averaging 0.75 points per game. The highlight of her inaugural season may have been a game-tying penalty shot late in the third period in a March 4 playoff game against Princeton, which the Elis would go on to win in overtime.

Her efforts last winter earned her ECAC All-Rookie honors and culminated with her joining Team USA at the World Championships last April. Resor has been with the national team since then and will head to Lake Placid this month for the final weeks of training before heading to Italy.

Despite missing an anchor of her team’s defense for the entire 2005-06 season, Love said she feels that Resor’s experience in Turin will pay great dividends for the future of Yale women’s hockey.

“[Resor’s selection] is huge for our program. It gives Yale great publicity, and hopefully that can translate into even better players coming to Yale in the future,” she said.

Yale head coach Hilary Witt said Resor’s stint with the Olympic team will make her an even stronger player.

“We’re all so proud,” she said. “I think it helps us more than it hurts. What she’s going to learn during this experience will be invaluable when she comes back.”

After the opening ceremonies Feb. 10, the U.S. Olympic team begins first-round play against Switzerland, Germany and Finland the following week. The gold-medal game, which Team USA won in Nagano, Japan, in 1998 and which Canada won four years later in Utah, will take place Feb. 20.

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