Sheffield Steelers were a shade away from a third successive 3-0 shut out win last night.
A consolation Manchester Storm goal at 58:19 broke the sequence, but Steelers kept up the pressure on Belfast Giants and Cardiff Devils in the standings.
Robert Dowd scored his third goal in as many matches to set the Arena side on their way.
They coold have taken the lead after just 43 seconds, but Colton Fretter fired over the angle from the slot.
Storm were giving away too much space in front of their netminder - they were to pay for living dangerously on what looked a slushy Sheffield Arena ice surface.
Steelers killed a penalty on Yared Hagos and then went ahead through Dowd - almost a carbon copy orf a goal scored recently by the winger who assisted him, Levi Nelson at 13:06.
Fifty seconds later it was 2-0 with Ben O’Connor’s left point shot being tipped in by Guillaume Desbiens.
The goals triggered end-to-end chances from both sides.
But that was the end of scoring for the period.
Storm had were more offensive after the first break, Mark Heatley and Dartian Dziurzynski wasting chances.
Paul Phillips bashed a shot into Ervins Mustukovs’s shoulder but then Steelers’ offence clicked in.
Geoff Walker made room for himself in the slot and crashed a shot on to the bar.
Then O’Connor again sent a puck in from the point and Mathieu Roy converted for 3-0 at 34;09.
All Steelers had to do was keep Storm out and conserve as much energy as possible for the reverse trip over the Pennines on Sunday.
Manchester enjoyed a lot of puck possession, but were often let down by the final pass or shot.
However Dziuryznski rewarded the travelling fans with the late reply, on the power play.
Coach Paul Thompson declared himself satisfied with his team’s night.
But with Cardiff winning in Belfast for a second night running, he admitted the Welsh were “in the driving seat” for the title.
All his side can do is keep the pressure up, he said.
Saturday 18th February
Belfast Giants 2 Cardiff Devils 3
Fife Flyers 3 Dundee Stars 4
Nottingham Panthers 4 Coventry Blaze 1
Sheffield Steelers 3 Manchester Storm 1
Sunday 19th February
Coventry Blaze v Nottingham Panthers – 5.15pm
Dundee Stars v Fife Flyers – 6.30pm
Manchester Storm v Sheffield Steelers – 5.30pm