For the first time since 2013, Latvia will participate in the top World Junior tournament in 2017 after finishing with a perfect record in Division IA this past week.

After finishing second and third in the past two Division IA tournaments, Latvia was able to take advantage of a weaker German squad in Austria this week after Deutschland came in as the top-rated team thanks to being relegated from the main tournament in January.

Latvia had a fairly impressive run along the way, allowing just a single point to their opponents during the event. It all started with a big 6-2 victory over the hosts from Austria on Sunday before following that up with a 5-3 win over Kazakhstan. Their closest game, however, was a 2-1 shootout victory over Norway, who struggled to do much after beating Italy 10-1 in the opening game of the event. Latvia then went on to beat Germany 4-1 on Thursday before ending things off with a final victory over the Italians.

Latvia will head to the top division with 11 potential returning players for 2017, a much better number than the four that Belarus brought to the top tournament with them this year. Unlike at the World Championships, which make it tough for the same few teams to avoid the relegation cycle, Latvia will have some older players with experience playing together, something that should help if the they’re forced to play in the relegation round at the end of the event.

Going down to Division IB, however, will be the Italians, who didn’t record a single point in a miserable tournament for the country. The country is still searching for their first appearance at the top level but will have to wait even longer after getting relegated to DIB after just a two-year stint in DIA. France will instead take their place next December after a big 7-2 victory over Poland on Friday, breaking a three=way toe to win Division IB.

Follow me on twitter, @StevenEllisNHL.

About The Author

Steven took a different route towards his hockey interests. Starting out as a big Habs fan, he started to gravitate towards the more obscure levels of hockey, such as the low level tournaments in Asia, strange club matches between teams most people in North America can’t pronounce, and even some 3am contests between Bulgaria and New Zealand. Aside from his love for strange hockey events, Steven occasionally acts as a mediocre ball hockey goalie following a failed attempt at making it to the NHL as a fourth line house league grinder. Beyond hockey, Steven is an avid racing fan and loves to chat about NASCAR, F1, Indycar, you name it. Oh, and don’t get him started on music. That is, unless you want the whole history of metal and a guitar lesson. Currently, Steven is a credentialed media member with the Mississauga Steelheads of the OHL, as well as with the Oakville Blades of the OJHL. Steven has also hosted the television show "The Hockey House" on TVCogeco in Ontario, as well as a segment under the same with on LeafsTV in Toronto. Home page: http://www.thehockeyhouse.net

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