No. 15 Yale fell one goal shy of upsetting No. 9 Princeton in the semifinal round of the inaugural Ivy League Tournament on Saturday.

The third-seeded Elis (10–4, 4–2 Ivy), who were trailing the second-seeded Tigers (10–4, 4–2) by five goals with less than nine minutes to play in Ithaca, N.Y., slashed that gap with four goals from attackers Gregory Mahony ’12 and Matt Fuchs ’10 in the next seven minutes. But time expired before the Elis could pull off the comeback.

“We didn’t play really well — we didn’t protect the ball well, I think we rushed a few of our shots,” head coach Andy Shay said. “The third quarter we got more shots and started to loosen up a little bit, but we really didn’t hit our stride until the fourth quarter.”

Princeton and Cornell, who defeated Brown 14–8 in Ithaca on Saturday, will contend for the Ivy League Tournament title and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament in late May on Sunday. The Elis still have a shot at making the NCAA Tournament, but Shay said the loss to Princeton hurts Yale’s post-season chances significantly.

The teams advancing to the NCAA Tournament will be announced Sunday night.

It took both sides a while to settle in on Saturday, with Yale and Princeton combining for seven turnovers in the first quarter and the teams missing numerous shots. After nearly seven minutes of scoreless play, attacker Brendan Gibson ’10 finally got Yale on the board when he sent a low shot past goalie Tyler Fiorito with 8:20 left in the frame.

Gibson’s tally turned out to be the only one of the quarter. It looked like neither team would make much headway in the second period as well, but with 2:13 left before halftime Princeton finally got its first goal of the contest. And it only took 55 seconds for the Tigers to capitalize twice more.

The Bulldogs won the next face-off and Mahony hit the back of the net from 17 yards out to cut the deficit with 24 seconds left, but Yale still lagged behind 3–2 heading into halftime.

“It was definitely a defensive game,” defender Peter Johnson ’13 said, noting that both teams’ offenses average more goals than seen in Saturday’s 7–6 game. “A lot of Princeton’s defense could be attributed to their goalie. We were getting a lot of shots on goal but he had some really great saves.”

The Tigers continued to widen their lead in the third frame. Attackers Rob Engelke and Alex Capretta each tallied for their team, putting Princeton up 5–2 heading into the fourth period. Princeton outshot the Blue 29–25 during the first three quarters.

Princeton’s attacker Jack McBride, who scored one goal in the second quarter, notched two more goals for his squad at the start of the final frame to make the lead 7–2. McBride has a team-leading 30 goals and 43 points.

But as time wound down, something finally seemed to click for the Elis.

“We called a timeout and we had some heated comments from a few of the guys,” Shay said. “The result after the timeout was that [Princeton] never had the ball again. We got some good shots and took the ball away. But it just wasn’t good enough.”

Fuchs struck first in Yale’s late-game surge, firing a low shot through Fiorito’s legs with 8:43 left on the clock. Mahony won a ground ball and rolled a shot into the net 66 seconds later to make the score 7–4. Roughly one minute later, Mahony tallied again — this time sending his shot soaring over Fiorito’s shoulder.

Mahony nearly scored his fourth goal of the game with 4:34 left, but his shot rang off the pipe. Then Fuchs hit the net with 1:59 remaining to play, bringing the Elis within one point of the Tigers.

But 7–6 was as close as the Bulldogs would get. Yale turned over the ball on its next two possessions in Princeton’s defensive zone, and a pass from Fuchs to attacker Matt Gibson ’12 went out of bounds with 13 seconds on the clock.

“I think everybody felt like we missed out on a big opportunity because we didn’t play particularly well,” team captain Brendan Gibson said. “If we had put together one of our better performances we would be playing [Sunday].”