The No. 11 Gophers men’s hockey team will close out the first half of its season with a two-game Big Ten series at Michigan State. The first game is 5:30 p.m. Friday.

Minnesota got a split on its last visit to East Lansing late last season, winning 4-2 and losing 5-0.

“We know [the Gophers] are a good team so we have to defend well, and it’s a cliché but the best offense is a good defense,’’ said Spartans senior right wing Villiam Haag, who has six goals and three assists in 12 games versus Minnesota.

The Spartans (4-6-1), who have not played a conference game yet, are on a three-game unbeaten streak (2-0-1) and are well-rested. Since a 2-2 tie with North Dakota in Grand Forks on Nov. 26, they have only played an exhibition game against the U18 U.S. national development team.

Mason Appleton (5-6—11) leads Michigan State in goals and assists. Ed Minney, the team’s primary goalie, has a 2.98 goals-against average but a save percentage of only .892.

The Gophers (7-52, 1-1 Big Ten) are coming off a split at home with Ohio State; they lost the second game 8-3.

“I still think this group can do something this year,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said his weekly radio show. “I really do. But unless we plug the leaks on defense we are not going to win.”

The Gophers have scored 50 goals and are averaging 3.57 goals per game — 10th best — but have also given up 45.

Sophomore forward Tyler Sheehy leads Minnesota in goals with nine and points with 20.