by Nick Hart | AHL On The Beat
When the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins pulled the trigger on a trade on Feb. 8, Trevor Yates was thrilled to learn that he had become the newest member of the organization.
When the news broke, Yates’ phone started to light up with messages of thanks and farewell from his old team, as well as welcome texts from his new one.
Yates didn’t have to wait very long for a familiar name to flash across his screen. As soon as he caught wind of the transaction, Penguins rookie Sam Lafferty had to text his old friend about how excited he was to play with him again. Shortly after Lafferty’s message came through, Yates’ phone buzzed again. This time, it was Penguins rookie Anthony Angello, but the message was roughly the same.
Despite not knowing one another prior to their time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Lafferty and Angello had a common thread in Yates. Angello spent the entirety of his collegiate career at Cornell playing alongside Yates. Lafferty and Yates go back further, as they were prep school roommates and linemates at Deerfield Academy in Massachusetts.
“I texted him right away,” Lafferty said about the trade that made Yates a Penguin. “He’s a real good buddy of mine. I was so excited to see he was coming to us, and I know he was excited to be here, too.”
The connection between Yates, Lafferty and Angello is already a pretty stunning one; three young men who have a past with one another all coincidentally end up on the same team in their first season of professional hockey together. It’s pretty wild.
However, the coincidences run even deeper. Believe it or not, all three of them share the same exact birthday: March 6.
You’ve got to be kidding.
“I remember in prep school, someone came up to me and said, ‘Happy birthday,’ then they went right up to Sam and said the same thing,” Yates recalled. “We just kind of looked at each other. ‘It’s your birthday today, too?’ Then the same thing happened at Cornell with Anthony two or three years later. It’s quite a funny coincidence, right?”
Sure, funny is one way to look at it, because it’s so unfathomable that these three players, raised in Pennsylvania, New York and Quebec, shared locker rooms and living spaces with one another in the past only to be reunited on the same pro team in their rookies seasons, all while having the same birthday, that the only thing you can do is laugh.
The laughter picked up between the trio pretty quickly once Yates was able to see his old friends again. After the trade, Yates did have to spend some time with the Penguins’ ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers. He blossomed in his brief time in Wheeling, posting 14 points in 14 games. When his play earned him a call-up to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Mar. 11, the first place he went was to Lafferty’s apartment to be greeted by his prep school roommate and college teammate.
Yates is a year older than his fellow Big Red, Angello, which meant that the younger Penguin looked up to him a bit when he first arrived at Cornell.
“I was able to run a youth hockey camp with him through Cornell in the summers before we’d come to camp,” Angello said. “My very first year, the summer before my freshman year, you saw right there that he was a good kid, and he works hard.”
Since that first youth camp they worked together, Angello and Yates built a friendly rapport off the ice in addition to building Cornell into one of the nation’s top programs by the time they left Ithaca. Lafferty and Yates were no slouches when paired together at Deerfield either, putting up 55 and 48 points, respectively, in their final season before going their separate ways for college.
All of that time spent together on the ice and in the locker room meant that Yates forged strong friendships with both Lafferty and Angello before the two Penguins prospects even knew one another yet. And still, both Lafferty and Angello had similar scouting reports on their new old teammate, Yates.
“Pretty quiet at first, but once you get to know him, he opens up and he’s a lot of fun to be around,” said Angello. “He’s a bit of an undercover prankster. So watch out.”
Since working his way up from Wheeling to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Yates has been nothing but appreciative of the stars aligning and the sequence of happy coincidences that have reunited him with two of his best friends.
“When you first get here and you’re meeting 20, 30 new people, it’s nice to have a familiar face in the sea of new ones,” Yates said. “You have someone you can bounce questions off of, someone who can show you around and you can just hang out with.”