ORONO – This could be one of Tanner House’s most challenging times as a captain on the University of Maine men’s hockey team.

The Black Bears are winless in their last five games and have tumbled in the national polls. They teeter on the edge of falling to sixth place in the Hockey East standings and haven’t made the NCAA tournament in his four years at Orono.

The setbacks don’t faze House. Instead, the senior center sees the final eight games of the regular season as a challenge and an opportunity for his team, which opens a two-game series against Vermont Friday night at Alfond Arena.

“It’s going to be a challenge against some good teams, two weekends at home and two weekends on the road,” House said. “It’s a challenge, and we’ve been struggling on the road so we have to get going on those.

“And it’s an opportunity for us to string some wins together and fight for home ice and see what we can do in the playoffs.”

Yet even he admits that in his second year as Maine’s captain, he faces his own challenge during this stretch.

“It’s a lot tougher to be a leader when you’re struggling right now,” said House, who has nine goals and 14 assists in 25 games. “The biggest thing is trying to stay positive and not looking too far ahead at the end result.”

House, 24, has become one of the program’s prominent faces, not just because of his prowess on the ice. In the past two weeks he has been named a finalist for Division I hockey’s Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award and the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award, national awards that recognize academic achievement, philanthropy, character and community service.

“The community supports us so much throughout the year and it’s nice to give back,” said House, who does volunteer work at hospitals, in schools and in hockey clinics through Maine’s student-athlete advisory committee and through the hockey program. “We’re here on scholarships and I feel like we should be giving back.

“And we have a lot of fun with the kids. It’s win-win. I love it. I love talking to fans and hearing what they have to say, and any chance I get to represent the university, it’s a big honor.”

That, Maine defenseman Will O’Neill said, isn’t always the easiest thing to do.

“We’re in the spotlight more often than not,” O’Neill said. “For him to even go above that and put himself in other positions to be seen or to be spoken to, or to be asked for his autograph, just to show his face around, that shows extra effort.

“We go through a lot of things here, attention-wise. For him to be able to put a smile on his face, even to see little kids, it’s a big deal. I have a lot of respect for him.”

Because of those efforts, teammates talk about House’s strong traits and not just his hockey abilities: his honesty, his modesty, his sense of humor, his work ethic, his emphasis on preparation, the ease with which teammates can approach him, his presence in the locker room and his effect on his teammates.

House’s maturity also is evident off the ice as one of the team’s top students. There have been nights, Maine sophomore Matt Mangene said, when House was finishing schoolwork in the library while other students were home relaxing or going out with friends.

“You see that and it rubs off on you,” Mangene said. “You say, ‘I want to be like that. Maybe someday I want to be the leader of this team and he’s the perfect example to lead by.’“

Even at one of the most demanding points in the season, when the focus turns to wins, losses and playing into the early part of the spring in the NCAA tournament — a bonus for some teams and a legacy for others — House continues to set an example with poise in the face of pressure.

“He’s the teammate and player guys look to for strength and for leadership,” Maine Coach Tim Whitehead said. “He’s done a great job when times are tough. He never puts the blame elsewhere.

“He’s a strong young man and there’s no quit in him. He’s a great reflection of the mind-set of the team.”

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be contacted at 791-6415 or at:

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