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.

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