It still hasn’t sunk in, but I’ll go ahead and say it: I’m going to Torino, Italy tomorrow, to see one of Yale’s own play for my country and for the gold.

For those of you who have been living in the basement of WLH and who are only communicating with the outside world at section: The 2006 Winter Olympics are going on as we speak, and Yale’s own Helen Resor ’09 is playing hockey for Team USA. Denise Soesilo ’10, Bulldog-to-be, is there too, playing for the German national team.

But unlike the Germans, Resor and the Americans are legitimate gold medal contenders. Only the Canadian team plays at anything close to the level of the Americans. If you like to watch fast-paced, high-octane hockey, you should be watching these games. They’re only going to get better, especially if the U.S. and Canada face off for the gold as expected on Monday evening in Torino.

Yale fans have a real connection to the team. Unlike Cuba Gooding, Jr. — whose Olympic career was limited to a stint as a backup dancer for Lionel Ritchie’s performance at the 1984 Opening Ceremonies — Resor is anything but a benchwarmer. This is no backup dancer. Anyone, Yalie or not, who has watched the Americans in their first three games should be familiar with Resor’s name and her No. 6 jersey by this point, because she is on the ice all the time.

Yale has one of our own playing in the Olympics. She’s someone you’ll have classes with, see in the dining hall — who knows, maybe you’ll even run into her at Toad’s. But either way, she’s playing great hockey, she’s doing it for her country, for the highest stakes, and she deserves your support. Watch the semifinals Friday and the medal matches Monday. You won’t be disappointed.

After all, the whole Olympic tournament is filled with names and faces that Yale women’s hockey fans have grown familiar with over the past few years. Even if we’ve grown to hate some of them for the things they did to our team, they’re all still great players.

Julie Chu, the Fairfield, Conn. native; Angela Ruggeiro, the U.S. Team’s most elite defender; and Canada’s Sarah Vaillancourt, whose two goals knocked the Elis out of the playoffs last season, all play for Harvard when they’re not representing their countries. Sarah Parsons, the young offensive star of the American team, and Canadian Cherie Piper (who had a hat trick Sunday) will both play for Dartmouth next year. And those are just some of the names.

By my count, 11 of the 20 players on the U.S. team, including Resor, play in the Ivy League (and by extension the ECACHL). That means that even when the Olympics are over, you’re going to have the chance to see women’s hockey played at the highest level on a regular basis. You won’t even have to buy an airline ticket, because you can see it for free at Ingalls Rink, just up Prospect Street.

But you don’t have to wait for the Olympians to come back to see great hockey at Yale.

The Bulldogs’ seven-game unbeaten streak is a program record, and this weekend they’ll face their biggest test yet, a home-ice rematch with No. 3 St. Lawrence and No. 8 Clarkson. But even without wins this weekend, the deed has been done. Hilary Witt, with the help of some truly remarkable players, has established Yale as one of the premiere schools for women’s ice hockey. The Bulldogs can even clinch their first Ivy League championship with a win Feb. 25 at No. 5 Princeton.

Alec Richards ’09 is good, maybe great. But if you want to see a really top-notch, best-of-the-best goaltender, you have to watch Sarah Love ’06 play this weekend. Love is normally amazing — she faces almost twice as many shots per year as most of her ECAC rivals but still manages to save over 92 percent of them — but right now, she is inhuman. She hasn’t given up an even-strength goal in her past 300 minutes on the ice. Over the course of the Bulldogs’ winning streak, Love’s GAA is 0.60 and her save percentage is .977. St. Lawrence and Clarkson shouldn’t even bother trying to get the puck past her, because right now no one can.

Goaltending is not the only show the women’s hockey team is putting on right now, either. Want to see a truly great freshman forward, a true goal-scorer? We’ve got Crysti Howser ’09. Like to see senior leaders that can score, not just encourage? Captain Lisa Jacque ’06 was inches away from the hat trick versus Union, and Deena Caplette ’06 is leading the team in points. Short-handed goals? Kristin Savard ’07 had one on Tuesday. And if you think girls can’t hit hard, you should watch someone try to recover from a check from Nina Resor ’07.

I can’t make anyone turn on NBC (if I could, they’d probably be paying me to write about “Joey”!), and I can’t make anyone show up at Ingalls to watch women’s hockey, even on senior weekend against two of the best teams in the country. But for the record: if you like sports, and you like to support your team or your country or (for some of you) both, give Helen and the Yale team a chance. There was a time when anyone would have wanted to say they knew Cuba Gooding Jr., one-time Olympic backup dancer. Pearl Harbor, Snow Dogs and Boat Trip can ruin a career. But the memories of what could be an Ivy League championship season will last a lifetime.

And the glory of an Olympic gold never fades.

Nick Baumann is a senior in Morse and a former Sports Editor for the News. His column on Ivy League and Yale sports appears on Thursdays.